Orange Street

I’ve written before about difficulties in reading the handwriting on old documents. I had another example again today when trying to read a street name. This was for someone who had moved from Unst, Shetland to South Shields, County Durham, so it was in an area I don’t know well. The street name looked like “Orange Street” but I could have also believed it to say “Osange Street” so, since I didn’t know the area, and one should get to know the area you are working in, I decided to look it up.

Searching on Google Maps I could find no sign of either name. I recalled a previous time when I had been searching for a street and it turned out to no longer be there. So I thought it likely that the same had occurred with Orange Street.

Normally I’m used to looking at old Scottish Maps, but now I needed the same facility for English Maps. I found such a facility at Old

In these old maps, I found that, sure enough, Orange Street and it’s neighbour Raglan Street that I had found by paging forward in the census both no longer existed. I found nearby streets Frederick Street, Green Street and Brunswick Street, all coming off Laygate to allow me to line up the old and new maps together to see where the old streets previously were.

Orange Street Map 1858

Map from 1858 showing Orange Street in South Shields

Orange Street no longer there

Area in South Shields where Orange Street used to be.

Orange Street and it’s neighbours were redeveloped in the 1950s. I found a book South Shields in the 1950s: Ten Years that Changed a Town which says this:

.. the St Marks’s redevelopment scheme, at Laygate. On 3 July 1950 a notice had been placed in the South Shields Gazette giving notice, that the council of the Borough of South Shields … had made an order .. to compulsorily purchase the land and dwelling houses. Part one of the clearance area meant the demolition of Dixon Street, Raglan Street, Orange Street, Hardwick Street, Bedford Street – and part of Maxwell Street.

There is a little stub of a road coming off what is now Bedford Avenue which appears to be the remnants of where Orange Street once was. If you look at in on Street View it’s a parking area leading to some garages.

The Southtyneside images website has this photo of Orange Street (and the corner of Princes Street).

Orange Street and Princes Street, South Shields

When initially searching for Orange Street, I found various people asking for its location, so I will post links to this blog post as answers to their questions.

Deciphering addresses

As I’ve written before (in Old Maps and Why is local knowledge important?) it is good to get to know the area where you are researching people.

Vesuvius Street Examples

Plenty of examples of this indecipherable street name – still didn’t help

I like to look up the street names I come across on census returns that are outside Unst, partly to get a feel for where they are (since they are in areas I don’t know) and partly to double check the transcription. It varies on the Ancestry website whether they transcribe the street address for you or whether you have to work it out for yourself from the image.

This afternoon I was scratching my head over one such example in the 1871 census for the Parish of Kirkdale in Liverpool, that I had to figure out myself. When the street name is indecipherable on one page my strategy is to page back through the other pages that cover that street to see if there is a better example of the same word. This time though, that didn’t work – all the example were are bad as each other – I couldn’t even guess at what it was, to even try to use a search engine to check my guess.

So what to do then? Well, keep paging through the census return to find the neighbouring streets so that you can at least find the location of the street on the map, then maybe you can find it that way. Going earlier in census, the next street seemed to be called Pluto Street (obviously not named after the planet as it was only discovered in 1930); going later, the next street looked like Sterling Street.

I started by searching for Pluto Street since it felt more unusual. I found Pluto Street, in Kirkdale, on a website showing an A-Z of Liverpool streets from 1901. In the same section of streets there is a Sterling Street and a Vesuvius Street. So that’s what it says! It’s obvious now that you see it! Ahem!

Pluto Street no longer exists (and neither do some of the other streets near it), but Vesuvius Street does. Compare these two maps to see the area in 1901 versus how it looks today.

Vesuvius Street Map 1901Vesuvius Street Map 2015

So when you find indecipherable writing in census returns (and there are plenty of examples of that!!), don’t give up, you can look around the area, and home in on the street in question. Just remember that sometimes you have to look for older maps than those on Google Maps, since streets do change, and disapppear.

Uncommon abbreviation for a common occupation

In my work with the 1841 census, I have written before about the abbreviations used to record occupations. Today I found another unknown one, ‘F.C.’ which, from what I can glean looking at the original record, was unknown to the people who totaled up the census returns.

The census was operated in two phases (at least). The enumerator went round all the houses and recorded the names and occupations of the people who resided there on the night of the 6th June. In Unst in 1841, the enumerator for district 1 was George Robertson, who was also the registrar. We know this because he signs the last page of the enumeration booklet (there were 9 enumeration districts and thus 9 booklets to cover Unst in 1841, each with a different enumerator, picked from the upstanding gentlemen of the community).

I CERTIFY and declare that the Account of the Population of the District for which I am Enumerator, contained in this Schedule, has been truly and faithfully taken by me, and that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, the same is correct, so far as may be known.
Witness my hand this seventh day of June 1841.
Geo Robertson Enumerator.

Then in the next phase, the enumeration booklets were counted up, including occupations being totaled up. You can see the ‘workings’ of these counters as they go through the booklets, because they cross off the occupations as they count them. As genealogists this can sometimes be rather annoying if it obscures what was originally written by the enumerator! The occupations were normalised to aid in this counting, which is where, in later census years, the occupation codes come from.

On this particular page of the Unst 1841 census, John Harper who is residing in Humron, is recorded by the enumerator as having an occupation of F.C. The counter clearly didn’t know what this was because it is not crossed out, suggesting it was not counted, and in the left hand side margin against this entry there is a cross and something scribbled in a different hand from the writing done by the enumerator. I cannot make out the writing, but I suspect the jist of it is to indicate an unknown occupation.

Island SunsetThe thing is, having spent quite some time now looking at the complete Unst Family Tree, I have grown very familiar with the occupations of the area. The most common male occupations recorded are ‘Fisherman’ and ‘Fisherman & Crofter’. I suspect that F.C. stands for ‘Fisherman & Crofter’. In 1841, this should have been recorded by the enumerator as ‘Fa & Fm’ – short for ‘Farmer & Fisherman’ – just as several others were recorded on the same page.

Perhaps it had been a long night!

Issue issues

I’ve always known that one source on its own is not as compelling as a number of sources which all back each other up. However, I’ve just had that very strongly illustrated to me today as I processed a record for one gentleman who lived in Unst in the 1800s.

As part of my complete Unst Family Tree, I’m gradually working my way through all the statutory records. The record today was a death record from 1855 – the year that statutory records began in Scotland (before that you had Old Parish Records which didn’t have as much detail in them).

Erasmus Bruce Issue

The children listed on Erasmus death record

In 1855, statutory death records listed all the persons issue in order of birth – after 1855 they reworked the records, and no longer included this information. This particular record had nine children listed, but the scrawly handwriting combined with a slightly faded image made them somewhat difficult to read (I’ve written about problems reading old handwriting before).

Before I processed his death record, I only knew of two of his children, James and Charlotte, because they are living with him in 1841 – although given the way 1841 census records were taken, their relationship was only a guess. Rather than making me disheartened that I couldn’t discover all the children, the quality of the record instead just made me more determined to figure out the children’s names.

Erasmus Bruce Children Search

Finding Erasmus Bruce’s children

In building my tree I make use of all sorts of records. I like to back everything up by seeing the actual records (or photos of them) and not just rely on transcriptions others have made, but some of these online transcriptions are extremely useful for searching. One online resource I use, allows you to search for records based on parentage, so my first step in solving this one was to go there. I can just about read from the scrawly handwriting that the ages of the children in 1855 range from 46 to perhaps 25. I also remember that in Old Parish Birth and Baptism Records, generally only the father was recorded and not the mother, and I will hazard a guess that they were all born in Unst, since their father has lived in Quoyhouse, Unst for 48 years according to his death record. This search resulted in 12 children, but I know I’m only looking for nine of them, so clearly there is more than one Eramus Bruce living in Unst at the time.

From the ages in the scrawl and this search I am able to pick out the children of this Erasmus, and then as a final check, I also find a number of these children’s own death records to double check their parents are Eramus Bruce and his wife Catherine Arthur. There are definitely a number of “So that’s what that scrawl says”, thoughts going through my head, as I pick out the most likely birth dates from the search results of children.

Here’s the final set of all nine children. Could you tell that this is what the scrawl above said? Me neither!

Erasmus Bruce Family Tree

All nine of Erasmus Bruce’s children

First names no longer in common use

When working with genealogical records for people who lived 100+ years ago, you get to see first names that are not now in common use. Many of the names rarely seen now are female versions of other male names. The table shows a selection, all of which are formed by adding “ina” to the male name.

Male form Female form Derivative
Andrew Anderina
Jacob Jacobina Jessie, Jemima
Hugh Hughina
Laurence Laurina
Robert Robina
Thomas Thomasina Tamar
William Williamina Willa or Mina

One of those names, Thomasina, has an oft used derivative, Tamar, which definitely confused some of the census transcribers. It’s a girls name, and yet frequently I have seen people with this name, listed in census returns as the daughter or wife of the head of the house, transcribed as James. Looking at the way the letters are written in examples of the old hand-writing it is almost forgivable, the “T” does look like a “J” in old script writing, then you have “am”, easy to assume it is “James”.

Example text - Tamar

Example old hand-writing showing how Tamar could look like James

Mind you, the gender of the person ought to have made the transcriber double check, and also, in this case, six lines above there is a real “James” in the same handwriting. Perhaps we can forgive them however, as names are not always used the way we expect them to be, for example, would you expect ‘Bruce’ to be a female name?

Example text - James

To compare to the text saying Tamar, from the same page, here is text that says James

I’ve seen it so often now, that whenever I see “James” I will double check the gender, and if it’s female, smile to myself and think, “that’ll be another Tamar then”.

Reading Old Handwriting

Perhaps I shouldn’t be one to complain; in this day-and-age of using computers for everything, my hand-writing is likely even worse; but sometimes the writing on old records like census returns and birth/marriage/death records are really hard to read. You’ve got to feel for the people whose job it is to transcribe them for use on the plethora of websites now available for you to make your own family tree. Some of them, I’m convinced you can only decipher if you already know what it’s supposed to say.

Take place names, and worse still, house names; if you’re not from the local area where the places are being recorded, you’ve no chance of getting them right. However, they do a good enough job that someone local can work what it was meant to say, so I guess that’s half the battle.

Occupations are harder though; Sure the common ones are easy to decipher – with a tree of 5000+ people, 45% Knitters and 45% Fishermen, those I can spot. However, every so often I come across one that really makes no sense. In this one case it was transcribed as “Formerly Cond Trung Car”. Pardon? I thought, surely that’s got to be an error in transcription, that can’t be anything close to what was written. So I purchased the actual image the transcription was made from and it said …

Census Return Snippet

Undecipherable Occupation on an 1881 Unst Census Return
Parish: Unst; ED: 4; Page: 3; Line: 19

“Formerly Cond Trung Car”. Pardon?

OK, so I’m none the wiser. I’ve asked on some ancestry web sites and had nothing that rings true either. The most common suggestion was “Formerly Conductor Tram Car” but since there are no trams in Shetland, that seems unlikely. I personally think that “Car” is short for Carpenter, certainly I have seen it used for that before. And, I’ve toyed with the idea that “Trung” is Training, since the guy in question is aged 23, but I can’t work out what “Cond” is.

So I’m putting this out to the world. Does anyone have any idea what this guys occupation might be?