If halls could talk: Marton Hall and its Atcherleys

Over the course of its long life, Marton Hall saw many members of the Atcherley family come and go. It witnessed births and deaths, it welcomed home newlyweds, and it hosted family and social gatherings of all kinds. Of its Atcherley residents and their lives, much was written – of Marton Hall itself, not so much. This ancient Atcherley abode was pulled down over a century ago, so even if (to tweak an old phrase) halls could talk, this one is not around to tell its tale. We are left with scattered shreds and snippets of information, from which I will strive to stitch together the story of Marton Hall.

Thanks to Richard Gough, who wrote The Antiquities and Memoirs of the parish of Middle in 1700-01, we know that the first Atcherley to settle at Marton, Thomas, “held Mr. Lloyd Peirce his house there, and dwelt in it”. (See Thomas Atcherley and his Marton Tannery.) Gough also tells us that Thomas Atcherley’s son, Thomas Atcherley the second, later bought the “cheife house in Marton” from “Lloyd Peirce”. In his account of Thomas Acherley the second, Gough wrote:

Quote He was att first tenant to Lloyd Peirce, Esq., and had his house burnt; but Lloyd Peirce caused him to re-build itt, butt hee, haveing a lease, built a house as large as the old one, and imployed it for a malt house, and built a faire house neare it for his habitation upon the lands which his Grandfather purchased of Owen and Twiford, and afterward purchased Lloyd Peirce’s lands. Unquote

The “faire house” built by this Thomas Atcherley was, I believe, the place which became known as Marton Hall. The “chiefe house in Marton” on the other hand was, according to Gough, still being used “for malting roomes and corne chambers” in 1701.

Following the death of Thomas Atcherley the second in 1681, the Marton estate was inherited not by his eldest surviving son Andrew (who had been given Thomas’s lands in Forden, Montgomeryshire) but by his youngest son, Richard. Richard however passed away at the end of 1682. Marton Hall was then occupied by Elinor, the widow of Thomas Atcherley the second. She was “of Marton” when her will was written in 1684.

Following Elinor’s death (her will was proved on 13 April 1687) it is possible that Marton Hall remained vacant for a time. Andrew Atcherley did eventually move to Marton, but I do not know when. He was certainly living there by 1701, when Richard Gough wrote of “that house [at Marton] wherein Andrew Acherley now dwelles”. Andrew later returned to Forden, being of that place when he wrote his will in February 1709/10; he was buried there shortly afterwards.

MI - Myddle - Atcherley, Richard, 1679-1750)

Andrew Atcherley may have gone back to Forden on the marriage of his son Richard (to Elizabeth Lloyd) in January 1702/3. Richard, great grandson of Thomas Atcherley the first of Marton, occupied the family seat until his death in 1750. His will specified that his estate was “not to be entred upon til the death of my said Wife Elizabeth”. Elizabeth passed away in 1755. (A monument dedicated to Richard and Elizabeth, mounted inside the church at Myddle,  is pictured above.)

Richard and Elizabeth’s eldest son (another Atcherley named Thomas) had predeceased both of his parents, but he left two male heirs. The eldest, Robert Atcherley, duly “entred upon” the Marton estate, remaining there until his death, at the age of 27, just three years later in 1758. Robert’s younger brother Richard then took possession but he too died young (like his father, at the age of 34) in 1766. He left a widow and five young children.

Richard’s widow was described in 1771 as “Jane Atcherley of Marton, Middle, after of Shrewsbury,” which indicates that she and her children vacated Marton Hall after Richard’s death. Sadly Jane, who was the daughter of Thomas Hughes, vicar of Loppington, survived only to the age of 37, and went to her grave in 1773. A death notice referred to Jane as “Mrs. Atcherley, relict of Mr. Atcherley, late of Marton-hall” – the earliest reference to Marton Hall (as opposed to plain “Marton”) that I have yet found.

A number of years were to pass before Marton Hall heard the sound of Atcherley voices again. In the meantime, the house was let out to tenants. The following advert, which appeared in the  Shrewsbury Chronicle of 8 November 1777 (and in further editions over the following four months), confirms this – and gives a rare description of the property:

Quote TO be Let, and entered upon Lady-Day next: MARTON HALL, in the Parish of Middle, in the County of Salop; being an exceeding good House, fit for the Reception of a Gentleman’s Family, with a good walled Garden, Dovehouse, and convenient Outbuildings thereunto belonging, and about 29 Acres of good Arable, Meadow, and Pasture, now in the Occupation of John Farmer, Gent.—Marton is pleasantly situated, within 8 miles of Shrewsbury and Ellesmere, and about 5 from Wem, and there is a good Fishery belonging to it.
For further Particulars apply to the Rev. Mr. Hughes, Vicar of Loppington, in the said County, or Mr. Roberts, Attorney at Law, in Loppington aforesaid. Unquote

I suspect that Richard and Jane Atcherley’s eldest son, also named Richard, returned to Marton Hall when he reached the age of 21 in 1784. (He may have abandoned his apprenticeship with Messrs Widdens, Potts & Leake, attorneys, at that point: see The life and crimes of Thomas Atcherley.) Richard wed Elizabeth Edwards in 1792, but no children resulted from this marriage. With no male heirs to continue the Atcherley line at Marton, Richard devised his estate to his nephew David Francis Jones, on condition that he changed his surname to Atcherley. David complied with his uncle’s wishes (see Richard Atcherley and his hopes for posterity).

David Francis Atcherley, as he became by virtue of a Royal Licence, was a Sergeant at Law. It appears that he did not spend much time at Marton. His official residence was in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, London, and this is where most of his children were born, from 1818 to 1830. He also had estates at Davenham in Cheshire (where at least one of his children was born, and where two who died in infancy were buried) and at Cymmau in Flintshire. He died at Bedford Square in 1845, the address where he and his family were enumerated when the census of 1841 was taken.

On the death of David Francis Atcherley, his lands at Marton (and elsewhere) were inherited by his eldest son, also named David Francis Atcherley. This David was recorded on the 1851 census with his mother and his sisters at Hastings in Sussex, but the family were probably taking a holiday there at the time. At Marton Hall meanwhile, the census enumerator found servants, but no head of the household. This was also the case in 1861, in which year I have not found David Francis Atcherley on the census at all.

Despite his no-show at Marton on the censuses, I believe that Marton Hall was nonetheless David Francis Atcherley’s official residence from the latter half of the 1840s. “David Francis Atcherley, Esq., of Marton Hall” was “sworn upon the commission of the peace of Salop” in 1851, he was made a Deputy Lieutenant of Shropshire in 1855, and he was a Cornet in the North Salopian Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry from 1857 to 1859. All of these appointments point towards David being resident in Shropshire.

Plan of Marton Hall and groundsPlan of Marton Hall and grounds, based on Ordnance Survey Six Inch map XXVII N E, published 1884.

Marton Hall’s heyday, its ‘golden years’ if you like, followed David Francis Atcherley’s marriage to Caroline Frances Amherst Stacey in 1866 (see Bride and Joy: Celebrating an Atcherley marriage). The following news report, from the Wrexham Advertiser of 18 November 1871, gives not only a taste of the social activities in which Mr and Mrs Atcherley engaged, but also an indication of the size of Marton Hall’s drawing room:

Quote Amateur Operas.—The rare and almost unprecedented attempt to give Italian opera in a private drawing-room, with all the performers strictly amateurs, has been successfully achieved in Shropshire by Mr and Mrs Atcherly, of Marton Hall. A theatre, with appropriate scenery, was fitted up in the spacious drawing-room, and the audience consisted of nearly two hundred of the leading families of the neighbourhood. … Unquote

When David Francis Atcherley died in 1887, Marton hall passed not to his daughter Rosamond, but to his nephew Francis Robinson Hartland Atcherley. Francis lived at Marton for nearly two years, but on his marriage in 1889 he set up home in the nearby parish of West Felton. Although the Marton estate remained in Atcherley ownership for some years afterwards, it was never again occupied by the family.

Marton Hall fixtures etc 1896By 1891, David Gaussen, J.P. and his family had taken up residence at Marton Hall. They made way for George G Lancaster and his family in the mid 1890s. A document survives from that time which is, to my knowledge, unique: a room by room “List of Fixtures etc at Marton Hall”, which is dated December 1896. The following rooms on the list were, I presume, all on the ground floor: Old Front Hall, Dining Room, Oak Room, Study, Large Vestibule, Drawing Room, Offices, Housekeeper’s Room, Scullery, Kitchen, and, in the “Wing Building”, room No. 1, the Middle Room, and the End Room.

An oak staircase (with “16 Stout brass stair rods”) gave access to the upper floor(s) of Marton Hall, where there were 18 bedrooms plus a Boudoir. (The List gives details of fixtures in bedrooms numbered up to No. 18, but does not include entries for bedrooms 9 and 10.) 25 brass stair rods are listed for the “Landing beyond” the Boudoir, suggesting the presence of a second set of stairs there. Beyond the hall itself was a stable with a Harness room and Yard.

George Lancaster was still at Marton Hall when the census of 1901 was taken, but in 1904 new tenants arrived: Henry Hills Meredith, J.P. and his family. Henry died in 1905, but his wife Laura remained at Marton Hall and was enumerated there with her sister-in-law and servants when the 1911 census was taken.

places - Shropshire - Marton HallMarton Hall. I believe this to be a view of the South West end of house.

Laura Meredith, who moved to Ludlow not long after the census, was probably the last tenant of the original Marton Hall. After a life of around 250 years, the hall was pulled down and a new Hall erected in 1913-14. Eleanor Owen, in her dissertation of 1966, wrote:

Quote … Marton Hall … was fairly near the road from Myddle to Baschurch and was a white building. … All that remains of this now is one room which is used for storing cement. The new hall is 75 to 100 yards from the old house further in the grounds. … The new Marton Hall was built mainly from the remains of the old hall … in 1914 … Unquote

Though the old Marton Hall was gone, the new house contained reminders of the Atcherley’s former home. “Most of the old wood was taken from the old hall and put in the new hall,” wrote Eleanor Owen. “One small room in particular is oak panelled and there is a beautifully carved fixture cupboard which is dated 1666.”

Picture credits. Monumental inscription in Myddle St Peter: Photo by the author. Plan of Marton Hall and grounds: Drawing by the author, based on Ordnance Survey Six Inch map XXVII N E, published 1884. Extract from List of Fixtures etc at Marton Hall: Photo by the author. Marton Hall: Source of photo unknown, but image believed to be out of copyright as pre-1914.


Images of pages from the List of Fixtures etc at Marton Hall can be viewed in the Documents album of the Atcherley.org.uk Flickr Photostream.


[1] Richard Gough (1875), Antiquities and Memoirs of the Parish of Myddle. Copy viewed at Internet Archive. Note: Although published in 1875, Gough wrote his manuscript in 1700-01.
[2] Anon (1885), Middle Parish Register. In: Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. Volume IX. Page 223. Copy viewed at Internet Archive.
[3] The National Archives, Kew. Item ref PROB 11/387/51: Will of Ellianor Atcherley, Widow of Middle, Shropshire. Copy viewed at Ancestry – England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858. Also available from The National Archives website.
[4] The National Archives, Kew. Item ref PROB 11/515/145: Will of Andrew Atcherley or Acherley of Forden, Montgomeryshire. Copy viewed at Ancestry – England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858. Also available from The National Archives website.
[5] Forden, Montgomeryshire (now Powys), parish register, entry dated 9 Feb 1709/10 for “Andreas Acherley”. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Powys Burials.
[6] Battlefield, Shropshire, parish register, entry dated 28 Jan 1702/03 for marriage of “Richd Atcherly of ye Parish of Middle and Eliz Floyd of ye Parish of St Mary Salop”. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Marriages.
[7] Atcherley.org.uk: MIs at Myddle St Peter (1).
[8] The National Archives, Kew. Item ref PROB 11/782/475: Will of Richard Atcherley, Gentleman of Morton [= Marton], Shropshire. Copy viewed at Ancestry – England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858. Also available from The National Archives website.
[9] John Burke, John Bernard Burke (1847), A genealogical and heraldic dictionary of the landed gentry of Great Britain and Ireland; Volume I, pages 31-32. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[10] Shropshire Archives item 1984/24 (Windler Collection) dated 28 October 1771. (“Jane Atcherley of Marton, Middle, after of Shrewsbury, widow, administrator with the will annexed of Richard Atcherley late of Wem gent decd …”). Abstract viewed at The National Archives website.
[11] Shrewsbury Chronicle, 5 Jun 1773, page 3. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[12] Shrewsbury Chronicle, 8 Nov 1777, page 4. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[13] Bloomsbury St George, Middlesex, baptism register, entries dated 3 Jul 1819, 15 Jan 1820, 13 Jun 1821, 2 Jan 1823 and 3 Mar 1828 for David Francis Jones, Jane Margaret Jones, Emma Atcherley Jones, Elizabeth Hope Jones and Francis Topping Jones. Copies viewed at Ancestry – London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906.
[14] Davenham, Cheshire, baptism register, entry dated 8 Oct 1823 for Lucy Catherine Jones. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Cheshire baptisms.
[15] The York Herald, and General Advertiser, Saturday 26 Jun 1824. “BIRTHS. […] On Saturday last, in Great Russell-street, London, the lady of David Francis Jones, Esq. of a son.”
[16] Davenham, Cheshire, burial register, entries dated 3 Sep 1824 and 3 Sep 1825 for Francis Topping Jones and Francis Robinson Jones. Copies viewed at Findmypast – Cheshire burials.
[17] Chester Chronicle, 21 Nov 1828, page 2. “BIRTH. 18th Inst. in Great Russell-street, the lady of Mr. Serjeant Jones, of a daughter.”
[18] Chester Chronicle, 2 Jul 1830, page 2. “BIRTHS. 24th ult. in Great Russell-street, London, the lady of Mr. Serjeant Jones, of a son.”
[19] Death of David Francis Atcherley registered at St Giles, September quarter 1845; volume 1, page 34.
[20] 1841 census of England and Wales. Piece 672, book 5, folio 25, page 44.
[21] 1851 census of England and Wales. Piece 1635, folio 529, page 60.
[22] 1851 census of England and Wales. Piece 1994, folio 525, page 28. Marton hall, Myddle, Shropshire. 3 servants (farm labourer and 2 house servants).
[23] 1861 census of England and Wales. Piece 1885, folio 12, page 17. Marton hall, Myddle, Shropshire. 3 servants (house keeper, house maid, footman).
[24] Worcestershire Chronicle, 21 May 1851, page 7. The Magistracy.
[25] London Gazette, issue 21648, 5 Jan 1855, page 39. Commissions signed by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Salop.
[26] London Gazette, issue 21957, 9 Jan 1857, page 106. Commissions signed by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Salop. North Salopian Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry.
[27] Charles G Wingfield (1888), Historical Record of the Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry, from Its Formation in 1795, Up to the Year 1887. Page 71.
[28] Wrexham Advertiser of 18 Nov 1871 , page 6. Amateur Operas.
[29] Death of David Francis Atcherley registered at St George Hanover Square, June quarter 1887; volume 1a, page 256; age given as 69.
[30] Rhyl Journal, 23 Nov 1895, page 2. DEATH of MR F. R. H. ATCHERLEY. Copy viewed at Welsh Newspapers Online .
[31] Kelly’s Directory (1909), page 161. “Marton Hall is the property of Miss Muriel Atcherley, who is the principal landowner, and is at present the residence of Mrs. Meredith.”
[32] 1891 census of England and Wales. Piece 2122, folio 15, page 24. Marton hall, Myddle, Shropshire. Head: David Gaussen, 67, J.P., born Ireland. Wife: Eliza Gaussen, 43, born India. Plus 4 children (including 18 year old twins Nannie and Nina and a son who was a Military Student), a visitor, and 5 servants (Footman, Housemaid, Cook, Housemaid and Lady’s Maid).
[33] List of Fixtures etc at Marton Hall, dated 1896. Original held by the author.
[34] 1901 census of England and Wales. Piece 2551, folio 9, page 9. Marton hall, Myddle, Shropshire. Head: George G Lancaster, 47, Living on Own Means, born Limerick, Ireland. Wife: Cicely Lancaster, 26, born Piccadilly, London. Plus 2 children (Cicely, 3, and Claude, 1) and 10 servants (Butler, Footman, Cook, Housemaid, Lady Maid, Housemaid, 2 Laundry Maids, Childrens Maid, Under Nurse).
[35] R W D Fenn, N T Roberts (1985), The Recollections of Laura Meredith, page 71. In: Radnorshire Society Transactions,  Volume 55, page 68 et seq. Copy viewed at Welsh Journals Online.
[36] The Chester Courant, 4 Oct 1905, page 4. “We regret to announce the death of Mr. Henry Hills Meredith, J.P. for the County of Salop, of Marton Hall, Baschurch, which occurred very suddenly last week.” Copy viewed at Welsh Newspapers Online.
[37] 1911 census of England and Wales. Piece, schedule 33. Marton Hall, Myddle, Shropshire. Head: Laura Meredith, 57, widow (1 child, living), Private Means, born Knighton, Radnorshire. Sister in law: Mary Louisa Green Price, 39, married (17 years, 3 children, all living), Private Means, born Carnarvon. Plus 10 servants (Butler, Cook, Lady’s Maid, Head Housemaid, 2nd Housemaid, 3rd Housemaid, Kitchen Maid, Footman, 2 Grooms). [Note: The husband of Mary Louisa Green Price was Alfred Edward Green Price, son of Sir Richard Green Price (formerly Green), and uncle of Francis Chase Green Price, who married Joan Atcherley Dobell, who was the seventh cousin once removed of David Francis Atcherley.]
[38] Eleanor Owen (1966), A History of Myddle and Parish (dissertation). Digital version viewed at Myddle.net. (Index to digitalised sections of dissertation.)

Love and Marriage (Settlement): Thomas Atcherley and Hannah Cureton

Quote This Indenture of Three Parts made the Twentieth Day of February in the Tenth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third by the Grace of God of Great Britain France and Ireland King Defender of the [faith] and so forth And in the Year of our Lord One Thousand seven hundred and Seventy Between John Atcherley of Stanwardine in the Fields in the County of Salop Gentleman and Thomas Atcherley Son and Heir apparent of the said John Atcherley of the first part … Unquote

Not for the first time – and hopefully not for the last – eBay has given me the opportunity to make an amazing addition to my ‘Atcherley archive’. Previous purchases have included press photos of Richard Atcherley and his father Llewellyn, from the 1930s and 1920s respectively, and a ‘List of Fixtures etc at Marton Hall’ from 1896. Two receipts in respect of Henry Oliver Atcherley’s schooling, dating back to 1863 (see Henry Atcherley’s school days), were the oldest items in my collection – until now.

Atcherley-Cureton marriage settlement 1770 cover

For a little over a hundred pounds, I recently acquired two documents which are nearly 250 years old. Both of them bear the signature and seal of an Atcherley who was born in the late 1600s. The documents are a marriage settlement and a related indenture, both signed and sealed in February 1770. They are the kind of thing that I am used to seeing in UK archives but, along with other indentures and deeds of a similar nature, they were in the hands of a private seller in America. I am so pleased that I have been able to bring them ‘back home’ and also share them with the world, online.

Appropriately enough John Atcherley, “of the first part” of the indenture which forms the marriage settlement, was the man who brought the Atcherleys ‘back home’, to Stanwardine in the Fields in the Shropshire parish of Baschurch. His own marriage settlement of 24 March 1720/21 had provided the money he used to purchase the leasehold on the farm at Stanwardine (see The rebirth of the Atcherleys of Stanwardine). But what exactly was a marriage settlement? The description provided by Wikipedia is as good as any I have seen, so I will paraphrase it here.

In essence, a marriage settlement – in England – was a trust of land or other assets, set up jointly by the parents of the parties who were to be wed. Trustees were appointed to take legal ownership of the assets, with the bride and groom given beneficial ownership (or use) of those assets during their lifetimes. The beneficial ownership of the assets would then descend to one or more of the children born from the marriage and to their heirs.

Atcherley-Cureton marriage settlement 1770 page 1

Such a settlement ensured that the dowry (often called a ‘portion’) provided by the father of the bride, would be used as a source of financial support for his daughter during her married life and, if her husband should predecease her, into her widowhood. A financial commitment was also obtained from the groom’s father, to secure the future of the married couple and their children. The Atcherley-Cureton marriage settlement was summarised thus:

Quote Whereas there is a Marriage agreed upon and intended shortley to be had Solempnized between the said Thomas Atcherley and the said Hannah Cureton Now This Indenture Witnesseth that for and in Consideration of the said intended Marriage and for settling a Provision by way of Joynture for the said Hannah Cureton in case the said intended Marriage shall take effect and she shall happen to survive the said Thomas Atcherley her said intended Husband And for the settling and assureing of the Messuage or Tenement Lands and Premisses herein after mentioned to or upon the Issue of the said intended Marriage Unquote

Thomas Atcherley was his father’s only son. Of his three surviving sisters, who were all younger than he was, two (Elizabeth and Mary) had married in the early 1750s, while the other (Sarah) remained a lifelong spinster. Thomas’s father, John Atcherley, had tied the knot at the age of 28, but Thomas remained unwed until he was well into his forties. Thomas was the only person who could provide John with grandchildren who would perpetuate the Atcherley name. The arrangement of Thomas’s marriage to Hannah Cureton must therefore have been a relief for John.

“Hannah Daughter of John and Mary Cureton of Hordley” was baptised at Hordley St Mary on 22 March 1744/45. She would have been seen as a good match for Thomas Atcherley: her father John was a yeoman, a farmer who owned his own land, as was his father before him. She was 24 years of age when she married, around 20 years younger than her husband, with a good number of child-bearing years ahead of her. But how did Thomas and Hannah see each other?Did love play any part in their union? Or was the match made for them, and entered into by them as a solemn duty? I have no evidence upon which to base answers to these questions.

Whatever their own thoughts on the matter of being united in wedlock, Thomas and Hannah were well provided for by their marriage settlement. John Cureton, father of Hannah, was to pay £350 to John Atcherley, father of Thomas. In return, John Atcherley agreed to sell his property at Morton Ucha in the parish of Oswestry to two yeomen who would hold it in trust during the lifetime of Thomas Atcherley, for the use of his wife Hannah (should she survive him), and then (after the decease of both) for the use of one or more of the couple’s children, according to the custom of primogeniture (of which more will be said shortly).

Atcherley-Atcherley-Cureton indenture 1770 page 1The property at Morton Ucha consisted of a house (a “Messuage or Tenement”), some land, and everything that went with them (“the Appurtenances”). The two yeomen to whom the property was sold were John Atcherley of Ebnall (in the parish of Whittington) and Thomas Cureton of Hordley. John Atcherley of Ebnall was a nephew of John of Stanwardine, while Thomas Cureton was , I believe, Hannah’s brother. They each paid John Atcherley of Stanwardine the sum of five shillings for the property, and an indenture confirming the sale (pictured right) was signed and sealed (by the elder John Atcherley) on 19 February 1770.

Although the younger John Atcherley, and Thomas Cureton, were – on paper at least – the legal owners of the Morton property, there were of course limitations on what they could do with the house and land in their possession. Although they had the use and “behoofe” (the profits or benefits) of the property while Thomas Atcherley remained alive, Thomas was nonetheless permitted “to receive and take the Rents Issues and Profitts thereof”. After his death, if Hannah survived him, she was to benefit from the property. The marriage settlement of Thomas and Hannah had much to say on who would have the “use and behoofe” of the house and land at Morton after both Thomas and Hannah were gone.

Those writers of wills and indentures who were paid by the word must have loved the custom of primogeniture, for it gave them the opportunity to write at length as they explained how it would work in practice. Put very simply, primogeniture is a system whereby real estate, titles or offices are inherited by a man’s eldest son, then by that son’s eldest son, and so on, in preference to younger sons, who in turn take priority over daughters. An additional ‘rule’ is that the offspring in question must be legitimate heirs, i.e., born in wedlock. It is possible for the heirs of younger sons to inherit if an elder son has no male offspring, or for a daughter (or daughters) to inherit if there are no sons (although in some cases if there are no sons, a brother may inherit).

Covering all eventualities, the scribe who completed the Atcherley-Cureton marriage settlement stretched this part of the agreement out into a passage of 361 words. In this particular case, in the event of there being more than one daughter who would inherit the “use and befoofe” of the Morton property, they were to do so as “Tenants in Common in Possession in a Course of Coparcenary”. In other words, they would inherit jointly.

As well as settling the property at Morton Ucha, John Atcherley agreed that if the marriage of Thomas and Hannah took place before 25 March 1770, he would give Thomas “full and Peaceable Possession” of his farm and lands, which he held and rented from Thomas Vernon Esquire, with all his “Stock of Cattle of all sorts and kind utensills of Household and Husbandry Corn Grain and Hay”.

Thomas Atcherley and Hannah Cureton married at Hordley on 22 February 1770, two days after their marriage settlement was agreed. The question of inheritance by daughters in the end was moot: over the course of the next 14 years the couple had six children – all boys. With the exception of their second son Thomas, for whom I have found no baptismal record, all their sons were baptised at Baschurch: John on 6 February 1771, Richard on 23 August 1773, William on 16 August 1778, Edward on 21 October 1781 and James (see The mystery of the missing Militia man) on 26 March 1784.

Thomas Atcherley died, aged 71, on 7 April 1796 at Stanwardine. A brief death notice in The Monthly Magazine described him as being “agent to the Earl of Exeter.” He was buried at Baschurch All Saints on 11 April. Knowing that his end was nigh, Thomas had made his will less than three weeks before his death. He had six sons to divide his estate between.

First in line was his eldest son, John: he received Thomas’s tenant right and interest in the farm at Stanwardine, together with all the farming stock, implements of husbandry, corn, grain, hay, growing crops, household goods and furniture (with some exceptions) and all the other goods and chattels belonging to the farm. Thomas Atcherley junior’s inheritance was very similar, as he was given the farm house and land which Thomas had acquired at nearby Weston Lullingfields, along with its farming stock etc. This was subject however to the payment of two legacies of £400 each to Edward and James Atcherley when they reached the age of 21. Richard and William Atcherley meanwhile were also bequeathed £400 apiece, to be paid out of Thomas’s “ready Money and Money out at Interest”.

Subject to the jointure settled on his wife Hannah under their marriage settlement, Thomas also gave his eldest son John Atcherley his “Estate at Morton Comprized in the said Settlement”, which was to be free from any other “Charge or Incumbrance”. Hannah was also allowed to take her pick of any of the household furniture at Stanwardine, while Thomas junior – the sole executor of his father’s will – was made the residual legatee.

Hannah Atcherley, née Cureton, died at Weston Lullingfields on 18 May 1810. She was buried, four days later, in the same tomb as her late husband. Although the inscription added to the tomb gave Hannah’s age as 64 she was in fact 65. Hannah had lived long enough to see her four eldest sons marry. Of those four weddings, one (that of William) served to perpetuate the link between the Atcherleys and the Curetons. The result of the ceremony in question was that Mary Cureton, Hannah’s niece, also became her daughter-in-law!

Atcherley-Cureton marriage settlement 1770 signatures and sealsAtcherley signatures and seals on the Atcherley-Cureton marriage settlement of 1770. Note that John wrote his surname as Acherley while his son Thomas wrote his as Atcherley.

Picture credits. All photos by the author.


Images of the indenture and marriage settlement from 1770 can be viewed in the Documents album of the Atcherley.org.uk Flickr Photostream.


[1] Atcherley-Cureton marriage settlement dated 20 February 1770. Original held by the author.
[2] Marriage settlement (England). At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 24 Apr 2016).
[3] Sally Mitchell (1996),Daily Life in Victorian England. Page 104. Copy previewed at Google Books.
[4] The rebirth of the Atcherleys of Stanwardine.
[5] Hordley, Shropshire, parish register covering 1744/45. Entry dated 22 Mar for the baptism of Hannah Cureton. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
[6] Lichfield Record Office: Will of John Cureton of Hordley, Salop, Yeoman. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Staffordshire, Dioceses [sic] of Lichfield and Coventry wills and probate 1521-1860. Note: This John was the father of John and grandfather of Hannah.
[7] Hordley, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1770. Entry dated 22 Feb for Thomas Atcherley and Hannah Cureton. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Marriages.
[8] Indenture between John Atcherley of Stanwardine in the Fields, Salop, John Atcherley of Ebnall, Salop, and Thomas Cureton of Hordley, Salop, dated 19 February 1770. Original held by the author.
[9] Primogeniture. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 24 Apr 2016).
[10] Baschurch, Shropshire, parish register covering 1771 to 1784. Entries dated 31 Jan 1771, 23 Aug 1773, 16 Aug 1778, 21 Oct 1781 and 26 Mar 1784 for, respectively, John Atcherley, Richard Atcherley, William Atcherley, Edward Atcherley and James Atcherley. Copies viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms.
[11] MIs at Baschurch All Saints (3).
[12] Sir Richard Phillips (1796), The Monthly Magazine. No. III, April 1796. Page 255. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[13] Baschurch, Shropshire, parish register covering 1796. Entry dated 11 Apr for Thomas Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[14] Lichfield Record Office: Will of Thomas Atcherley of Stanwardine in the Fields, Baschurch, Salop, Gentleman. Transcript provided by Barbara Lang.
[15] Baschurch, Shropshire, parish register covering 1810. Entry dated 22 May for Hannah Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[16] Hordley, Shropshire, marriage register covering 1800. Entry dated 4 Aug for William Atcherley and Mary Cureton. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Marriages.

Thomas Atcherley and his Marton tannery

Quote There is a kneeling in this Peiw, which belongs to that chiefe house in Marton which Thomas Acherley purchased of Lloyd Peirce, Esq.; it is not that house wherein Andrew Acherley now dwelles but the house which stands on the right hand as wee go from the street to Andrew Acherley’s dwelling house, and is now made use of for malting roomes and corne chambers; and the barne that stands on the west side of it is all the building that beelongs to it. I can give noe account of the family of Lloyd Peirce, neither is it necessary; but I shall give an account of the Acherleyes, since they had any estate in this parish. Unquote — Richard Gough (1701), Antiquities and Memoirs of the Parish of Myddle.

Richard Gough’s amazing account of the deeds (and misdeeds) of the parishioners of Middle (or Myddle) in Shropshire, includes stories relating to the first few generations of the Atcherleys of Marton. The information provided by Gough regarding those early Atcherleys does have to be treated with some caution given that it is, at best, second-hand – the events he described took place before he was born. Nevertheless, in Richard Gough’s Antiquities and Memoirs of the Parish of Myddle we have a starting point for learning about the origins of the Marton Atcherleys, and the source of their wealth.

Quote There was one Richard Acherley, a younger brother of that antient and substantiall family of the Acherleyes of Stanwardine in the feilds. He was a tanner, and had his tan-house in Stanwardine in the feild, but he lived (as a tenant) at Wicherley Hall. Hee purchased lands in Marton of David Owen, and one Twiford. I supose these two had married co-heiresses, for I finde noe mention of butt one house of the lands, and that stood on a sandy banke on this side of Mr. Acherley’s new barnes. Richard Acherley had ishue, Thomas Acherley, to whom he hee gave these lands in Marton. Unquote

Map - Baschurch, Stanwardine, Marton 1830s

Marton, in the parish of Middle, is situated less than two miles (just under three kilometres) away from Stanwardine in the Fields, in the adjoining parish of Baschurch (the map above shows Baschurch, Stanwardine and Marton in the 1830s). There are records of Atcherleys at Stanwardine which date back to at least the thirteenth century, so there are no grounds to doubt that the Atcherleys of Marton came from there as stated by Gough. Unfortunately, while the parish registers of Middle began in 1541, we have none for Baschurch until 1600. A baptism record for the first Thomas Atcherley of Marton is therefore lacking (as indeed are many other events for which I dearly wish there were records!).

“Gough the Historian”, as Richard is sometimes known, was clearly a little puzzled about the former owners of the Marton lands acquired by Richard Atcherley. It was modern-day historian David Hey who managed to crack the conundrum . At the UK National Archives David found a record of a Chancery court case from 1623, which I have since looked at, photographed, and transcribed myself. This reveals that on 8 February 1612/13 a John Windell of London purchased “One Messuage or Tenement & ye Lands and Tenements thereunto belonging, of him the saide Roger Twyford lyeing and being in Marton in the parrish of Middle in the saide Countie of Salop then or late in the possession or occupacon of William Baker, and David Owen, or one of them”.

Afterwards, according to David Hey, “This property changed hands several times until Richard Atcherley’s son, Thomas, finally bought it in 1622”. The Chancery case shows that one of those changes of hands, in 1617, brought the property into the holding of “Richard Atcherley of Stannardine in the Countie of Salop aforesaide Gent”.

So the lands at Marton which “one Twiford” had owned, which David Owen had occupied, and which Richard Atcherley “of Stannardine” later held, were not given by Richard to Thomas Atcherley: Thomas had purchased them in his own right. Indeed, in Thomas’s own words he “did purchase to him and his heires the sd Mesuage and lands for a verie valuable consideracion given for the same and att a Deare Rate”. It was stated at Chancery that Thomas had entered into “three or fower sureties bounde in Statute bonde or Recognizaunce of Six or Eight hondred pounds” in order to free the lands he had bought from all incumbrances. Once he had acquired the lands, Thomas “Doth Lett and sett some parte thereof” while other parts were kept “in his owne possession”.

To return to Gough’s Antiquities and Memoirs: “This Thomas was a tanner and dwelt in Marton, and held Mr. Lloyd Peirce his house there, and dwelt in it, and suffered the other to go to decay. He built a tan-house, which is now standing by the old mill brooke.”

The tan house, which was standing when Richard Gough put pen to paper in 1700-01, still stands today (the image of the house below is from Google Street View). Long since converted into a dwelling house, it is a Grade III listed building. According to David Hey (writing in 1974):

Quote The house which stands so attractively in its garden at the top of the bank that slopes down to the Old Mill Brook is still known as the Tan House and belonged to the owners of Marton Hall until 1954 […] one is led to wonder from the name and from Gough’s account whether it was originally built as a tannery or a storage building, with perhaps some accommodation for the servants who worked there. The Atcherleys were the richest family in the parish during the seventeenth century and could well have afforded a high-class building of this kind. Unquote

Tanning was the basis of the prosperity enjoyed by Thomas Atcherley of Marton. An ancient craft, the conversion of animal hides or skin into durable leather required the presence of both cattle (for hides) and oak trees (for tannic acid, obtained from the trees’ bark). Both of these commodities were likely to have been present on the land owned and rented by Thomas AtcherleTanner, Nuremberg, 1609y, and on that of his neighbours. Water was needed for the process too: the siting of tanneries like the Atcherley tan house, close to a stream or river, was therefore standard practice. (The picture, left, shows a tanner working in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1609.)

From Richard Gough we learn that Thomas Atcherley sold the produce of his tanning business at Oswestry market. We learn too that the considerable amount of money Thomas brought home proved, on at least one occasion, to be something of a temptation to others – in particular one Richard Chaloner. Chaloner was described by Gough as “an untowardly liver, very idle and extravagant, endeavouring to suply his necessytyes rather by stealeing than by his honest labour.” Gough continued:

Quote This Richard Challoner was vehemently suspected by Thomas Acherley, of Marton, concerning an attempt to robbe him. This Thomas Acherley, Grandfather to Andrew Acherley that now is, was a tanner and used Oswaldstrey markett constantly and brought much money hence; and as hee was coming homeward in the night he found the gate at the old Mill brooke, neare Marton, made fast, and as hee stooped to open it hee saw a man with a club staffe arise out of the hedge and offer a blow att him, butt the horse starting, Thomas Acherley escaped the blow and he roade away and escaped. Hee often declared itt was this Challoner that offered to strike him. Unquote

Later in life, Thomas Atcherley moved to Wolverley in the nearby parish of Wem. He was living there at the time when, following the English Civil War, Cromwell and the Parliamentarians were fearful of rebellion. Even before Prince Charles (later King Charles II) landed in Scotland, on 23 June 1650, there was unrest north of the border, and this encouraged the Royalists in England. Writing in 1910 about the events of 1650, John Ernest Auden stated:

Quote From the receipt of the first news of a probable invasion from Scotland there was trouble and anxiety in England on the part of the Parliament, plotting and conspiracy on that of the Royalists. But the former kept a tight grip on the counties, and not the lightest on unruly Shropshire. On April 29, the Government sent word for ‘Major Brayne to have a Commission to be Major of foot of the regiment now to be raised in Shropshire under the command of Col. Thomas Mackworth,’ and on May 17, ‘a Summons from the Commissioners instructed for the speedy raising of horse and foot for the defence of the county of Salop,’ was issued to the High Constables of the various hundreds. Unquote

Further summonses followed, requiring the wealthier members of the community to supply men (to serve as soldiers), horses, arms, and money to pay wages. In this way Cavalry and Infantry were first raised, with Dragoons or Mounted Infantry “to complete the Shropshire muster” raised next:

Quote … a warrant of Captain Robert Allen to the High Constable of Bradford North, dated Sept. 28, 1650, ordered him to summon the persons who were charged with a Dragoon-horse and arms, to bring the same ‘complete at my Randevous held at Wellington’ upon Thursday, the 3rd day of October, ‘by nyne in the morning,’ and also those who were in arrears for the pay for their riders … Unquote

Among those who were listed at the end of the warrant was “Mr Thomas Atcherley of Wolverley”, who was directed to “send in his Dragoone-horse and arms complete with one week’s pay.”

The Act for Setling of the Militia of the Commonwealth of England passed in July 1650 stated that no person should “be charged with a Dragoon-horse and Arms unless such person have the yearly Revenue of Two hundred marks per annum, or who shall be worth Two thousand marks in moneys, or other Personal Estate, or an Estate equivalent”. An English mark was two-thirds of a pound, or 13s and 4d, so Thomas Atcherley of Wolverton, although retired from the tanning business, was still a wealthy man.

According to the parish register of Wem, “Thomas Acherley of Woulverley yeaman was buried the 24th day of Februearie 1657”. His last will and testament, which had been written two weeks earlier (on 10 February 1657/8) was proved two months after his funeral on 27 April 1658. It revealed that he had land not only at Marton and Wolverley, but also at “Northwood Newtowne and Morton”. As well as making bequests of his goods, chattels and cattle, Thomas left numerous legacies to family members and friends: one of 10 shillings, fifteen of 20 shillings, three of 40 shillings, six of £5 and one gift of £10.

The poor also benefitted from the will of Thomas Atcherley, who at the end of his life referred to himself as a gent. From the wealth which he had accumulated from his tanning business, he left £5 “to be dealt to the poore” on the day of his burial, 20 shillings to the poor of Wem parish, and 20 shillings to the poor of Loppington parish. To the poor of Middle parish, where he had earned his fortune, Thomas bequeathed 40 shillings.

Picture credits. Map showing Baschurch, Stanwardine in the Fields and Marton (1830s): This work is based on data provided through www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth. The Tan House, Marton: Embedded Google Street View image (non-commercial use). Tanner, Nuremburg, 1609: Adapted from a public domain image at Wikimedia Commons.


[1] Richard Gough (1875), Antiquities and Memoirs of the Parish of Myddle. Copy viewed at Internet Archive. Note: Although published in 1875, Gough wrote his manuscript in 1700-01.
[2] David G Hey (1974), An English Rural Community: Myddle under the Tudors and Stuarts. Copy viewed at Shropshire Archives.
[3] The National Archives, Kew. Item C 2/JasI/S15/20 (Court of Chancery: Six Clerks Office: Pleadings, Series I, Elizabeth I to Charles I): Simpson v Atcherley. Copies of documents viewed at The National Archives. Indexed at The National Archives website.
[4] Tan House, Marton. At: Discovering Shropshire’s History (website, accessed 12 Apr 2016).
[5] Naser A. Anjum et al (eds.) (2012), Phytotechnologies: Remediation of Environmental Contaminants. Page 84. Copy previewed at Google Books.
[6] Jill Armitage (2015), Nottingham: A History. Chapter 6. Copy previewed at Google Books.
[7] John Ernest Auden (1910), Shropshire and the Royalist Conspiracies between the end of the First Civil War and the Restoration, 1648—1660. In: Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Natural History Society. Third Series. Volume X. Pages 118-121. Snippets viewed at Google Books, and text (captured by OCR) viewed (via proxy server) at Hathi Trust website.
[8] HMSO (1911), July 1650: An Act for Setling of the Militia of the Commonwealth of England. In: Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660, pages 397-402. Text viewed at British History Online (website, accessed 12 Apr 2016).
[9] Abraham Rees (1819), The Cyclopædia, Volume XXII. Mark. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[10] Wem, Shropshire, parish register covering 1657/8. Entry dated 24 Feb 1657 for burial of Thomas Atcherley. Copy viewed at Findmypast – Shropshire Burials.
[11] The National Archives, Kew. Item ref PROB 11/276/129: Will of Thomas Atcherley, Gentleman of Wem, Shropshire. Copy viewed at Ancestry – England & Wales, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, 1384-1858. Also available from The National Archives website.

Who Do You Think You Are? Live: 2016 (Part 2)

< Back to Part 1.

One of the most popular attractions at WDYTYA? Live was, judging by the constant queue of people lining up to have their photo taken with her, not a celebrity guest but a replica Spitfire! Although the Spitfire was part of the Forces War Records stand, we had the Lytham St Annes Spitfire Ground Display Team to thank for bringing along this crowd-pleaser.

WDYTYA Live 2016 Spitfire

Checking the Forces War Records website yesterday, I found that my advance planning for WDYTYA? Live was incomplete – I should have looked at the site before the event! Forces War Records is the only site to have transcripts of WW1 Military Hospitals Admissions and Discharge Registers. The transcription project is ongoing, and it now includes two entries relating to my great uncle John Atcherley (in addition to two for his cousin Samuel Atcherley, which I have already seen). Had I known this, I would probably have been able to look at John’s records while I was at the show!

Other commercial enterprises with online offerings (Deceased Online, The Genealogist, Ancestry and Findmypast) were of course in attendance too. I took the opportunity to speak to both Debra Chatfield and Myko Clelland of Findmypast during the course of the show and was encouraged by the news they provided. ‘Under the hood’ changes to the inner workings of the Findmypast website are in progress and should enable enhancements to search functionality, family trees, and the rate at which new records are added. (My disappointment at the non-appearance of developments mentioned at last year’s WDYTYA? Live will hopefully be addressed by this in the months ahead!)

WDYTYA Live 2016 Findmypast

On the subject of new records, there are lots in the pipeline – and the rate at which they are coming through that pipeline is increasing. (This is also true of the historic newspapers, from both Britain and Ireland.) Expect more records from Shropshire and Staffordshire, a great deal more from Yorkshire (Findmypast has an agreement with 6 of the 7 Yorkshire archives), and parish registers from Leicestershire. Also on the horizon are Canadian censuses, and some exciting record sets from Australia. I have no timescales for these arrivals, we will just have to be patient!

Ancestry meanwhile was once again pushing its DNA testing for genealogy, and in a big way. Kits were on sale for £59, which was effectively half price compared with the usual cost plus shipping. I certainly took advantage of this saving (along with the big discount on subscription renewals available exclusively at WDYTYA? Live). The big push was not confined to Ancestry’s stand. Sir Tony Robinson fronted several presentations in Theatre 1 during which a number of ‘myths’ about Ancestry DNA were ‘busted’. Tony spoke to capacity crowds, the members of which had all paid to see him.

WDYTYA Live 2016 Ancestry

Quite what everyone thought about paying to listen to what was effectively a long commercial for Ancestry’s newest product I’m not sure. However, those who came away with free kits (given as prizes during the presentations) probably weren’t complaining! In fairness I should add that if the marketing works and lots more people take the Ancestry DNA test, that will be to the advantage of both new and existing customers. The more people who test, the more matches there will be, which in turn boosts the chances of using DNA to break through those bothersome ‘brick walls’.

WDYTYA Live 2016 DNA talkAncestry’s massive presence rather overshadowed the other, longer-established DNA testing company at WDYTYA? Live: Family Tree DNA. To some extent this was compensated for by FTDNA’s association with the talks delivered at the show’s DNA Workshop. There was an excellent selection of speakers who covered all aspects of genetic genealogy from entry-level to advanced. (One of the speakers, Mark Jobling, is pictured right.) As these talks were free I attended several, and I hope to post a separate article summarising some of the things I learned. FTDNA’s founder, President and CEO, Bennett Greenspan, also gave a talk in Theatre 2. I suppose in the end it was just as much a commercial as Tony Robinson’s presentation, but it was very entertaining and I enjoyed finding out about the birth of ‘consumer genomics’, the history of FTDNA, and some of the stories arising from DNA testing for genealogy. (A link to a page on the Society of Genealogists website, from which you can download copies of handouts / slides from many of the talks given at the show, can be found at the end of this report.)

WDYTYA Live 2016 Anita RaniAlthough Tony Robinson was billed as one of the celebrities attending the show, the only star from the WDYTYA? TV programme to appear this year was Anita Rani. She was interviewed by WDYTYA? Magazine editor Sarah Williams, and their conversation was punctuated by clips from Anita’s TV episode. I am always interested to see how the subjects of WDYTYA? are affected by their experience, and what Anita learned during the making of her programme certainly had a big impact on her. With the 70th anniversary of Partition falling in 2017, Anita wants to encourage the telling, and recording, of the so far untold stories of other families caught up in this traumatic event. I wish her success.

Of course, the real celebrities of WDYTYA? Live are the unsung heroes from the genealogy community without whom many important aspects of the show would not happen. They include the team from the Society of Genealogists who coordinate and staff the “Ask The Experts” area, the volunteers from societies and groups around the UK and beyond who put up stands and provide advice, and the speakers who share their expert knowledge in front of an audience via microphone and PowerPoint. A huge “Thank You” is due to all of them.

WDYTYA Live 2016 Ask The Experts

I will close my account of WDYTYA? Live by mentioning another aspect of the show which makes it a joy to attend. That is the opportunity to meet up with fellow ‘genies’ and family/local historians who would otherwise be known only online, via Twitter, Facebook and email. It’s not always easy to find everyone at such a big event (the appalling to non-existent WiFi at the NEC was partly responsible for that), but I did manage to put faces and voices to several names and profile pictures. Thank you to those who sought me out or who, having crossed my path, took the time to stop and chat.

WDYTYA? Live 2017 is a long way off, but I am already looking forward to it!

Read about the experiences of others at WDYTYA? Live:

Andrew Martin (History Repeating): Day One: Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016 | Day Two

Jane Roberts (Past to Present Genealogy): WDYTYA? Live 2016 : So much to do, So little time

Dick Eastman (Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter): Who Do You Think You Are? Live! in Birmingham, England – Day 1 and A Report and Pictures from Who Do You Think You Are? Live! in Birmingham, England.

Chris Paton (The British GENES blog): My trip to Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016

Debbie Kennett (Cruwys News): Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2016

Hilary Gadsby (Worldwide Genealogy): Conferences and Genealogy Shows, What’s the Difference?

Janet Few (The History Interpreter): Who Do I Think I Am? and other genealogical bits

Daniel (The Genealogy Corner): Who Do You Think You Are Live! 2016

Family Tree Magazine: WDYTYA?Live 2016

Download handouts / slides presented by speakers at WDYTYA? Live 2016

Society of Genealogists: Who Do You Think You Are? Live: Speakers’ Handouts

Watch the DNA lectures given at WDYTYA? Live 2016

YouTube: DNA Lectures – Who Do You Think You Are

Who Do You Think You Are? Live: 2016 (Part 1)

All the fun of the family history fair, on the grandest scale, was to be had at the tenth “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” at Birmingham’s NEC from April 7th to 9th. I was there for all three days, which gave me ample opportunity to make the most of what was on offer while sharing the experience through social media.

WDYTYA Live 2016 Spitfire

As with a visit to an archive, advance planning helps enormously when going to a show like WDYTYA? Live. Which stands are to be visited, which talks should be attended, and for what purpose? At the same time, some flexibility is also needed, to take advantage of unexpected discoveries. A find which fell into this category came when I realised, late on Day 2, that the General Register Office stand had their post-2005 Birth, Marriage and Death indexes available to view on microfiche.

Post-2005 BMDs for England and Wales are not online, and can only be viewed in a limited number of places, so a return visit to the GRO stand on Day 3 was added to my plans. I already had Atcherley BMD records up to 2011, so I spent a couple of sessions poring over the fiche reader to extract records for the period 2012 to 2015. The fact that there were only 9 Atcherley births in this four year period gives an idea of the small number of Atcherleys around! (I should add that the details I obtained, with the exception of the death records, have joined those which I do not share online, for privacy reasons.)

WDYTYA Live 2016 GRO

The GRO stand was in fact the first place I visited on Day 1 of WDYTYA Live. Back in 2015, an Act of Parliament made provision for Regulations to be drawn up allowing the GRO to make historic BMD records available in new ways. Genealogists like myself are naturally keen to see improvements to the current rather antiquated (and expensive) system for buying BMD certificates, so I asked for an update. I as told that progress is being made, and we should hear something ‘soon’ about the GRO’s plans. It seems likely that improved access will take place in stages. Birth and death records have already been digitised under a previous project, so it is likely that these would be made available, perhaps in PDF format, first. The response of users to this development would be crucial in determining whether marriage records then become available in the same way. None of this will happen without Regulations being put in place by Parliament however, and the Minister responsible for the GRO has many other priorities, so I suspect it will be some time yet before we are able to download our certificates online.

WDYTYA Live 2016 Guild

There were, of course, a multitude of other organisations with stands at the show, offering something for everyone on the family history front (and beyond). As ever, family history societies from around the UK (and the Federation of Family History Societies) were present, along with groups covering a wide range of other areas (geographical and otherwise). These included the Huguenot Society, American Ancestors, the Anglo-German FHS, the Guild of One-Name Studies, Families In British India Society (FIBIS), Methodist Heritage, the Caribbean Family History Group and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain. There were also a number of organisations with no real connection to family history, such as the RSPB, the Woodland Trust and Guide Dogs.


One stand that caught my eye was that of the Canadian Pacific Project. I took a closer look at this as I remembered that Doctor John Atcherley, after leaving Hawaii and moving (via San Francisco) to Vancouver, worked for a while with the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (see Dr John Atcherley’s WW1). On learning that the project is for the restoration of a locomotive named Canadian Pacific I thought I had ‘lucked out’. However I was given a leaflet with information on Canadian-based resources for researching railway ancestors. These include a museum holding personnel records and other documents from companies including, wait for it, the Canadian Pacific Railway! It just goes to show that you never can tell where you will find useful leads – a special “thank you” is due to the Watercress Line.

Elsewhere, there was a plethora of products tempting family historians to part with their cash. While there were no books which I was specifically looking for, I was open to purchasing any which appeared to be both useful and pitched at the right price. Over the course of the show I acquired Cecil Humphery-Smith’s Phillimore Atlas & Index of Parish Registers, Hilary Marshall’s Palaeography for Family and Local Historians, Michelle Higgs’ Servants’ Stories, and Emily Aulicino’s Genetic Genealogy. The last title was the only one not sold at a discount, but I did get it signed by the author, who maintains a Genetic Genealogy blog and who told me to email her if there was anything I didn’t understand. How often do you get that with a book?

WDYTYA Live 2016 books

Other resources for genealogists, such as maps, software, family tree charts, printing services, courses, and storage solutions for certificates and photographs, were available from several companies including Maxbal Genealogy, Genealogy Printers, Alan Godfrey Maps, Pharos Tutors, S&N Genealogy Supplies, CAIS, and the University of Strathclyde. The two out-of-copyright Ordnance Survey maps I bought from Quality Maps & More were the result of a chance find. However my purchase of clear, acid-free polypropylene wallets from My History was planned. On using them today to file away the photographs I have obtained through eBay I find that I have no less than 15 showing, or relating to, Richard (a.k.a. Batchy) Atcherley (as well as two featuring his father Llewellyn). I am glad these are now stored more safely.

WDYTYA Live 2016 Twile

In the field of software, the rise of companies offering new ways to display and share family history and family stories, with an emphasis on capturing the stories of today for the next generation, is interesting. Twile is the centre of much attention at present, particularly after their success at RootsTech earlier this year. They have a product which is constantly evolving in response to user feedback and the company’s own ideas, and they had a good spot on the edge of the Findmypast stand. Other companies at WDYTYA? Live offering products along similar lines were Famicity and Famberry which, as with Twile, provide private online spaces which others can view only by invitation.

Did you spot the Spitfire in the photo at the top of this article? I will tell you a little more about that, and more about some of the other fabulous features of WDYTYA? Live 2016, in .

What’s past is prologue – WDYTYA Live, 2015 / 2016

Today I am looking forward to this year’s “Who Do You Think You Are? Live” (which gets underway tomorrow) by looking back at my visit to the show in 2015. I shared some of my observations on last year’s event in my article Who Do You Think You Are? Live, 2015, but never did manage to post any further instalments. I shall now repair that omission, and make the past the prologue for the 3-day family history festival that is about to kick off at the National Exhibition Centre.

Celebrities and Companies

In my article last April, I covered the celebrities and some of the companies who attended WDYTYA? Live 2015. There were of course many more vendors in attendance than the few I described: DNA testing companies (including Family Tree DNA), UK family history magazines, software providers (Family Historian, for example), online databases (such as The Genealogist and Forces War Records), plus retailers of books, storage solutions and other genealogical goodies. I tried not to get too carried away with my spending, and was reasonably successful, the photo below showing what I described at the time as ‘The Birmingham Hoard’.

WDYTYA Live Birmingham Hoard

I will certainly be casting my eye over the cornucopia of commercial offerings at WDYTYA? Live 2016. I have a few things I would like to acquire (archival quality photo storage solutions for example), and who knows what else might take my fancy on the day? As for celebrities, well, what a disappointment the 2016 show is! There is only one genuine ‘Celebrity Theatre’ featuring a star from the TV programme. On the plus side that one star is Anita Rani so I will get my Strictly fix along with my WDYTYA? celebrity experience.

wdytya live day 3 familysearch 380 x 285Organisations, large and small

Organisations of all kinds and sizes attend WDYTYA? Live, from small societies to genealogy giants. I will categorise them as government bodies, societies, and, in a league of its own, the family history phenomenon that is FamilySearch (stand pictured right). We are all familiar with their websites, and in some cases with their publications and/or their sales catalogues. WDYTYA? Live provides an opportunity to talk to (and pick the brains of) the people who make the organisations tick, and to cast an eye over their offerings first hand.

wdytya live CWGC 650 x 335

Among the government bodies with a presence at the show last year were the UK National Archives (TNA), the Imperial War Museums (IWM) and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC, pictured above).wdytya live TNA 380 x 285 The military focus for the last two in that list is of course obligatory, but TNA (stand pictured left) had a similar focus with its First World War 100 displays and presentations.

One government department had a stand staffed by people who were there to pick our brains. The time is approaching when post-WW1 (including WW2) military personnel records held by the Ministry of Defence will no longer be retained by them. The logical custodian for these records is of course TNA, but this body has made it clear that it does not have the capacity to take on such a large volume of files. The obvious solution solution to this problem is digitisation, but that comes at a cost. How would that cost be met, and in the event of complete digitisation not being feasible, what records would users, such as family historians, prioritise for saving? (For an update on this, see Chris Patton’s blog post Proposals on access to post-WW1 military service personnel records.)

wdytya live WFA 380 x 285Government bodies were not the only organisations with stands focussing on military history and records. Among the many societies at WDYTYA? Live 2015 was the Western Front Association (stand pictured right), which has an archive of 6.5 million WW1 soldiers’ pension record cards.

Manual look-ups of these cards can be performed, for a fee, with scans sent to enquirers. In the longer term, the WFA hopes to digitise the entire collection and make them available online.

wdytya live SFHS 650 x 334

Family History Societies from the length and breadth of the UK (and beyond) populated much of the far end of the show’s exhibition hall last year. With many of these societies shrinking in size (a problem faced by many small voluntary organisations), the annual genealogical wdytya live GOONS 400 x 400jamboree that is WDYTYA? Live provides a valuable opportunity to sell their wares and, vitally, recruit new members. I was one of the new (actually, returning) members who joined the Shropshire Family History Society (stand pictured above) at the 2015 show.

One society which is bucking the trend of declining membership is the Guild of One-Name Studies (known affectionately by many as the GOONS). The Guild (stand pictured left) had a very successful show in 2015, and hopes to repeat (or better) that performance in 2016, with a new display which was first used at Roots Tech in Salt Lake City earlier this year. I’m looking forward to seeing that, along with all the other society stands.

Lectures, meet-ups and tweet-ups

One of the great things about WDYTYA? Live is the unrivalled opportunity it presents (in the UK at least) to see, listen to, and speak with so many fellow genealogists, many of whom have previously been known only online. Some speak at lectures provided as part of the show’s main programme (sadly, charges have been introduced for these lectures this year, no longer is it wdytya live dick eastman 380 x 285possible to get free tickets for them on the day – a black mark for the event organisers there). At WDYTYA? Live 2015, for example, genealogy godfather Dick Eastman (pictured right) presented a tech-orientated talk entitled Cloudy With a Chance of Genealogy. (Chatting to Dick towards the end of the show, I discovered that he and I are both members of a very exclusive club – vegan genealogists!) Other top-drawer genealogists talk at stands or in theatres operated by (or in association with) the companies and organisations. This year, I hope to attend some of the many free DNA presentations on offer at the DNA Workshop Theatre.

More rock stars of the genealogy world can be found staffing some of the stands for societies at the show, or providing free advice on behalf of the Society of Genealogists in their ‘Ask the wdytya live Jackie Depelle 380 x 285Experts’ area. No show is complete without seeing Jackie Depelle and ‘the hat’; the topper for 2015 can be seen in the picture to the left. And of course there are many ‘ordinary’ genies like myself who are also there as paying punters – I shall be tweeting my whereabouts from time to time (and watching the tweets of others) so that some of my fellow family historians can meet me (or indeed avoid me!) should they wish. A guaranteed forum for the fraternisation of family historians is the ‘tweet-up’ (a meet-up for those who tweet). Two tweet-ups have been planned this year, on Thursday (15:15 to 16:15) and Friday 15:30 to 16:30), in the courtyard outside (weather permitting).

I can’t leave this review of WDYTYA? Live 2015 and preview of the 2016 show without commenting on some of the things I reported on in my article of last April. At the Findmypast stand last year, lots of great things were promised as being ‘in the works’. Sadly, one year on, a number of them have still not happened. I am particularly disappointed that improved search facilities for the British Newspapers collection have not materialised. Additions to the countries of the world for which records are available are also conspicuous by their absence. On the plus side, I think all the record sets promised for 2015 did find their way onto the site – and many of them have been treasure troves of information.

Well, it is now WDYTYA? Live eve. I need to check train times, make sure my rucksack is packed appropriately, check that my tablet and phone are charged, scribble down what I want to do tomorrow, and take another look at Jane Roberts’ Family History Fair Tips for Beginners to make sure I haven’t missed anything!

> On to Who Do You Think You Are? Live: 2016 (Part 1)