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Family History 4 All

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Newsletter No. 21 - August 2008.



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I hope this message finds you all in good health. If you have an article or amusing story to share with us then please don’t be afraid to send it for publication…you can remain anonymous if you prefer but we want you all to feel you can contribute if you want to. Just send an with the words ‘Newsletter item’ in the subject box. And we will include it at the first opportunity, subject to editing, if necessary of course.

1. Our welcome message.

2. Featured Article – The Hoccoms of Wolverhampton By: Jay Brookes

3. Latest news from www.Ancestry.co.uk

4. Next month’s article.

Finding Missing Relations and Living Relatives in Britain

by Tony Fitzgerald, Professional Genealogist


1. Hi all,

Here we are with the August newsletter and what a relief! I honestly did not think I would be around to write it.

Last Monday was the longest day of my life...and I thought it would be my last...

Yes I've heard all the jokes ...I had 'MAN FLU' someone said

Well whatever it was, and yes it was flu, it left me reeling in agony, suffering from hallucinations and at one point actually praying that I would see my new grand daughter (who is in fact due today as I write).

No I'm not looking for sympathy BUT i would like to suggest that if you haven't had a flu shot (jab) then get one quick. I would hate to think anyone else would have to suffer what I've been through this week.

Thankfully I'm on the mend although I'm having to take a tonic as it has left me feeling very week.

Enough from me... Enjoy the main article:


2. The Hoccoms of Wolverhampton - By: Jay Brookes

The Hoccom family probably obtained their name from the hamlet of Hoccum which is in Shropshire around twenty miles from Wolverhampton. The first mention of a possible Hoccom (Hoccum) family member is Roger de Hoccums who appears in the 1272 Lay Subsidy roll for Worfield parish. He is followed by Roger de Hoccum who appears in 1292 & 1327. There are Hoccoms living in the Parish of Worfield and listed in the parish registers from the late 1500s onwards.

Edward Hoccom was born in 1764, the son of John Hoccom “a Gentleman” of Hoccom in the Parish of Worfield in Shropshire. In 1787 The Hoccum house and lands appear to have been sold and sometime before 1790 Edward Hoccom moved from the hamlet of Hoccom to Wolverhampton.

We know that his wife was called Charlotte; however her surname and the details of their marriage are as yet unknown to us. The Hoccoms had five children who were christened at St Peters Church – still the principal church in Wolverhampton today.

The five children were: John christened on 21st November 1790, William christened 10th July 1793, Benjamin christened on 28th December 1795 Edward christened on 18th March 1798, and Mary christened on 11th July 1802

The difference between the rural life in the Parish of Worfield and the growing industrial town of Wolverhampton must have been hard to adjust to. Hoccom is a tiny hamlet in Shropshire which currently consists of about four houses, and as far as can be told it has never been much larger. It is very isolated, being around three to five miles from the Parish church at Worfield.
Even in the late 1700’s Wolverhampton was growing industrial town with a population of approximately 10,000 people. The increasing population was bringing problems as the streets were unpaved, uncleared and unlit, drains or sewers, other than open ditches, did not exist and the water supply was inadequate. It was also developing slum areas that within

By the end of the 18th century Commissioners had been appointed to run the town and they made a number of improvements. Street lighting was provided in the form of an oil lamp at every street corner and over the doorway of every inn. Householders had to clean the street in front of their houses every Thursday and Saturday (helped by paupers from the poor house). All of the streets had been named and had a board which was black board, six inches high and had white lettering on it. The water supply was improved by the sinking of ten new wells and the provision of a great water tank in the market place, although there were no improvements to the drains and sewers. This would have major consequences later.

This unhealthy atmosphere may have contributed to Charlotte Hoccom’s early death; she died in 1804 and was buried in St. Peters graveyard – which is now under the Wolverhampton ring road! Edward married again on 14th February 1809 – marrying Ann Sollory, this marriage was by affidavit (licence). This was a document which required him to state that there was no impediment to the marriage – & agree a bond of £500 if the marriage was subsequently declared invalid for any reason. As a £500 pound bond would be an astronomical sum (a house maid might earn around £7 per year) getting married by Banns would have been a much cheaper option. The only obvious reasons for this are if Easter was early & therefore this was Lent (no Banns can be called in Lent) or if for some reason speed or secrecy were required. Unfortunately as Easter was late that year and as yet I have no interesting information to support any need for secrecy we can only speculate on the reasons. There are no known children of this marriage.

It is interesting that they decided to marry on Valentines day - In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century and by the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. It would have been a romantic gesture even then to marry on St. Valentine’s Day.

One of the witnesses to this second marriage was John Hoccom, he may be Edward’s older brother or he may be his son from his first marriage who would by then be aged nineteen this son died the following year.

Most industry in Wolverhampton at this time was based on mining, iron work, lock making and Japanning (enamelling metal items). In contrast to the huge factories & mills that dominated skylines and the lives of workers in Lancashire, most Wolverhampton and Black Country industry was based in relatively small workshops and factories in which the skilled workers often rented space and controlled their own activities. The only occupational information we have for Edward is from his 2nd marriage when he gave his occupation as a labourer. He may have worked in a workshop or mine but it is more likely that his work was as general labourer – the canals had come to Wolverhampton by the mid 1770’s and there would have been a need for unskilled work loading and unloading as well as in associated activities.

The canal networks were developed to carry coal to the furnaces of the Black Country. By 1790 the metal industries of the area alone consumed 845,000 tons of coal and the ironmaster John "Iron Mad" Wilkinson of Bilston was using 800 tons of coal each week.

In 1825 Edward’s youngest son by Charlotte, also called Edward was married, at St. Peters Church, to Martha Hill of Bilston.

Bilston is a Black Country town approximately five miles from Wolverhampton whose modern form is almost entirely a product of the industrial revolution. Historically is a harsh deprived area with a largely blue collar population.

Industrialisation brought about a rapid increase in Bilston’s population, from 3,000 in 1780 to 7,000 in 1801 and 24,000 by 1851, leading to overcrowding, bad housing and in sanitary conditions. These conditions gave an ideal breeding ground for cholera and there was an epidemic of 1832, which killed one in twenty of the population of the town in seven weeks. There are a number of people surnamed Hill who died in that outbreak and it is likely that some of these are Martha’s family although this is not yet proven. This cholera outbreak also struck Wolverhampton although less severely, only 198 people died.

At this time facility for public health was the Dispensary in Queen Street. However, its services were very limited and tended to cost money it is unlikely that Edward and his family could afford to use these facilities. An advance was made in 1831 with the opening of a Medical Hall and Vapour Bath Establishment. The advertisements for this stated that it was "intended for the relief of the poor as well as for the accommodation of families and the public generally". There were operations every Friday morning, which were free for the poor if they could produce a note from a respectable person saying that they couldn't pay – I’m not sure what defines a respectable person.

Martha and Edward are known to have lived in Blossoms Fold off North Street in central Wolverhampton from 1841. They had at least five children: Mary Ann, Jane, John, Ellen and Harriet, this would have been an average sized family for the time.

Blossoms Fold is a short distance from the town’s then market square High Green. The picture below shows High Green in 1822. This was the market place until 1853; the forty foot gas light pillar commemorated the lighting of the town by gas in 1821, one year prior to this drawing. Apparently the pillar was an inefficient light source and was described as a “big candlestick” by the locals; it was finally removed in 1840 to save the £36 of gas it used each year.

Edward Hoccom mostly worked as a labourer although in 1826 he described himself as coal carrier. As Wolverhampton had inadequate water supplies it can safely be assumed he would not be to pleasant to sit next to. Washing was very difficult and not particularly effective; there was a bath house, but it was too expensive for all but the rich. The poor made do with the canals and gravel pits.

In autumn 1843 Mary Ann Hoccom married and John Hoccom was married in autumn 1847 the details of which are not yet known for either of them.

On the 28th of October 1848 Ellen Hoccom gave birth to an illegitimate daughter Emma. Emma was baptised in a private ceremony on 30th of October 1848. At the time of Emma’s birth Ellen Hoccom gave her occupation as a servant and it is possible that Emma was the result of a liaison with either another servant or a family member of her employers – this latter theory is supported by the private christening. The other possibility is that Emma’s intended died in another Cholera outbreak or similar. By the time of the 1851 census Ellen was working as a laundress but still lived with Edward and Martha at Blossoms Fold.
If Emma was lucky enough she would probably have attended St Peters National School which was established in 1847. National Schools were founded in 1811 by an Anglican clergyman, Andrew Bell. At these schools a small number of teachers in each school relied on `monitors` (older children) who were instructed in the basics by the teacher, then passed this on `parrot fashion` to the pupils, children were thus taught the Three R`s.
The National School was located on St Peter’s Walk approximately five minutes from Blossoms Fold. It is more likely that as the illegitimate daughter of a single mother Emma had to work from a very young age and got any meagre education at a Sunday school.

In 1850 the first real public baths in Wolverhampton were built by public subscription in Bath Road about half a mile from where the Hoccoms lived. This is unlikely to have had much of an impact on them as they were still expensive, but they were more affordable than the previous facility. The new baths were criticised because "from their Arabian Nights style of architecture to the drooping chain that forms the handrail round the bath, offend against every canon of what modern baths should be. " Presumably, the Byzantine influenced design of the building was not thought to be restrained enough or poor people should have ugly buildings! The baths were not noticeably healthier than the canals to begin with. There was a complaint in 1851 that the water was only changed once a month, and when the council took the baths over in 1875 it was found that the water was still only changed weekly and that by the end of the week the water was "of a nature to discourage users."

Edward and Martha continued to live in Blossoms Fold until their deaths. Edward died of “old age” in July 1864 & was buried in Merridale Cemetery in a common grave. Martha remained in Blossoms Fold working as a laundress until her death around January 1872. She too was buried in Merridale Cemetery in a common grave but the cause of death is not known. Merridale Cemetery is located on what was then called Cemetery Lane and is now called Jeffcock Road.

Emma Hoccom married John George Dark in the summer of 1869. He was a twenty two year old house painter who came from Bromsgrove in Worcester. In the 1870s the Dark Family John, Emma and their sons John, William & Edward moved to 32 Sidney Street on the Southwest side of town. In 1878 they had a daughter Eva Emma Dark. The family remained in Sidney Street until sometime in the 1880s when they can no longer be found in the Wolverhampton records.

A look at life in England in the 19th Century for one family. The Hoccoms were displaced country people who were forced to relocate to a rapidly growing town.

Jay Brookes is an experienced genealogical researcher who also produces family packs for: www.planetmyway.co.uk.

3. Latest news from www.Ancestry.co.uk


What are the new membership packages all about?

As Ancestry’s UK and international record collections have grown by over 100% in the past year, the need has arisen to create record packages which are more closely aligned with the various phases and geographical needs of our members’ family history research. The new packages provide clearer content options for members depending on their level of advancement and where their ancestors come from, and in doing so also represent better value for money as members only pay for the records they need to access.

For example, Ancestry knows that most new members only use core UK records such as census and BMD whereas more experienced members want to explore a wider range of UK records such as immigration and parish. Most advanced members also want international content, including Irish records.

Also, depending on what knowledge they already have about their family history, members may need just UK records, or a combination of UK, Irish and/or other international records.

From the 13th of August 2008, the Ancestry Packages will be:

Essentials - designed for beginners. This package contains all essential UK records needed to start researching your family history – for example BMD indexes, census records, our complete military records and any parish records that do not predate 1837.

Essentials membership price

Annual: £83.40 (works out to be £6.95 per month)

Monthly: £10.95

Premium - designed for more experienced users who wish to dig far deeper into their UK roots using not only Essential records, but also parish and probate, immigration and Irish records, and also several major UK collections soon to be released.

Premium membership price

Annual: £107.40 (works out to be £8.95 per month)

Monthly: £12.95

Worldwide - for advanced users interested in taking their research beyond the UK mainland to Ireland and around the world, this collection enables them to take their search truly global

Worldwide membership price

Annual: £155.40 (works out to be £12.95 per month)

Monthly: £18.95

How existing Ancestry members will be affected

Customers may be worried that all new content will only be made available to Premium members – this is not the case. The general rule is that Essentials will not have access to anything that predates 1837 or any content that is a little more niche in terms of advanced family history research.

4. Next month’s article.

Finding Missing Relations and Living Relatives in Britain

by Tony Fitzgerald, Professional Genealogist Don't Miss This

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Got your own site? I started using this a few weeks ago and it really works: http://www.freewebtraffic.co.uk/

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That’s all for this month folks…I hope you enjoyed this months newsletter. And in case you forgot earlier - Please sign the  Guestbook. See you next month.

Jim. Editor

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 Jim Ackroyd. Address: 12 Avondale Road. Doncaster. UK. DN2 6DE

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