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Paul Howes

Paul Howes

Aug 092017

Photo courtesy: Mike Esbester

In 1911 alone over 28,000 employees were injured or killed on British railways. The government
department responsible for the railways, the Board of Trade, had been investigating some of
these casualties since the 1890s, to find out what happened and to make recommendations
to improve safety in the future. These reports are a fantastic resource, giving plenty of
detail about who was involved and working practices, as well as what happened. But it’s
often difficult to get hold of these reports, or even to find out what they contain.
Late in 2016, as a joint initiative of the University of Portsmouth and the National
Railway Museum (NRM), the ‘Railway Work, Life & Death’ project started to try to make
these records more accessible and see what we could learn from them.
A team of NRM volunteers has been working through the Railway Inspectors’ reports
for the years 1911-15 (when the reports were temporarily stopped as a result of the war).
They have done fantastic work, reading each report, extracting the key information and
placing this in a spreadsheet. With the details standardised in a spreadsheet, they become
easily searchable, making the information more accessible and useable
Dr Mike Esbester of the University of Portsmouth has been leading the project and recently contacted the Guild to ask for our members’ help.  The project has just made the first batch of data freely available via the project website:  The Project has catalogued nearly 4,000 individuals involved in accidents over the four and a half year period.  Full details for each individual are available to download in a spreadsheet.

One of the hopes of the project was that it would be of interest to a variety of audiences – including family historians, social historians and the general public. So, now that they’ve released some data, they would like some feedback.  Please take a look and offer any feedback you want to share through their website.

Mike will be speaking at our seminar, entitled “Accidents will Happen”, in Abberley, Worcestershire next February.

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Aug 072017

Just as the Guild has recently placed a good deal of information on DNA studies on the public part of our website, we have today added an additional five pages on the front side to guide people through the thought process of starting a One-Name Study.  The sections are:

  • estimating numbers and overall size
  • thinking about variant spellings
  • where and how to start
  • organising the study
  • selecting software

We hope these pages are useful for anyone contemplating taking on a One-Name Study, whether they are already a Guild member or not.  To see the new pages, click here and then use the links in the left-hand column.

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Jan 242016

I’ve been advised by our IT team that our website will be unavailable for approximately two hours between 6am GMT and 8am on Tuesday, 26th January.  Our web-hosting company, Krystal, will be performing an upgrade to server hardware.  The outage includes the main Guild site at including those parts of the site accessed through the Members Room, the WW1 site at and our email system. Emails sent during this time will be placed in a queue for later delivery. 

If there’s any variation in the actual experience beyond these expectations, stay tuned to Facebook and our Rootsweb mailing list for updates.

2016 Conference

While writing, I just want to note that a link in my newsletter to the conference web page didn’t work properly.  If you’d like to come to our conference in Birmingham, you can book a place using the form linked from this page:  

For any non-member reading this on our Facebook page, please note that you are welcome too!


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Nov 302015

How many One-Name Studies can claim a real saint as part of their number? There are the Saint, St. John and St. Paul One-Name Studies, but they are not what I mean. It’s 30th November, St Andrew’s Day, the patron saint of Scotland. But St Andrew is not whereof we speak either. 

Cuthbert Mayne in front of the gallows and Launceston Castle

Cuthbert Mayne in front of the gallows and Launceston Castle

On this day in 1577, in Launceston, Cornwall a man named Cuthbert Mayne was hanged to within an inch of his life and then disemboweled, beheaded and quartered, each piece of him then being displayed in a different part of the county as a warning to others.

He died for his beliefs, the first seminary priest ever to be martyred for his faith in England.  Beatified in 1898, he was created a saint in 1970 by Pope Paul VI.

How did all of this come about?  The son of a poor shepherd, Cuthbert Mayne grew up in Shirwell, in the North-western corner of Devon.  His uncle was a Rector in the established church, then going through enormous upheaval with the transition of monarchs from Mary Tudor to her sister Elizabeth I, and the consequent massive switch in the national practice of religion from catholic to protestant.  Elizabeth was excommunicated by the pope in 1567 after which it became very dangerous to be a catholic in England.  But South-Western England had many “hold-outs” for the old ways, for many years. 

The Rector sponsored young Cuthbert to go to Barnstaple Grammar School, after which he became a priest in a local church at the age of seventeen!  He then went to Oxford and gained a degree and a “living” as the chaplain of St John’s College.  In those troubled times, that had necessitated him to sign an oath of loyalty to the Queen as head of the church.  However, his conscience troubled him and within three years he found himself at a seminary in Douai, France, where he was ordained again in a different faith.

In March 1576 he returned to Cornwall and lived with a wealthy local catholic family, ostensibly as their steward but in practice their priest.  He and his patron were arrested by the local Sheriff and imprisoned for five months and at the local Assizes he was condemned to die, his crime being refusing to recant his faith and recognize Elizabeth as the head of the church.


Actually, this is just a summary, taken from a chapter of a book, Soldiers, Saints and Scallywags, authored by Guild member David Gore about some of the people in his One-Name Study into the Mayne name. He writes much better than me and I do recommend that you read the original here:  David Gore eBook.  By the way, while reading that chapter I happened to notice reference to three other study names too: Body, Carey and Edgecombe, and I suspect there are references to others in the extensive Index Nominorum.  David tells us that he has been a member of the Guild for almost thirty years and has received much good advice from other members along the way, most notably from our Front Desk and DNA Advisor.  Do you have a Mayne man or woman in your study?  If so, you can click here to send David a note or on the other names above to contact the respective study owners.

With two English schools named after him, it seems both ironic and fitting that Cuthbert’s name should have lived on longer than his persecutors.  Every time I read a story such as this I give thanks that I grew up in more enlightened times and in a more enlightened place.

This is the third in an occasional series.  If you are a Guild member reading this, does your study have a special day for remembering your name, like 5th November or Trafalgar Day?  Would you like us to publicize your study on that day?  If so, send us an email by clicking this link.

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Nov 052015

Guy Fawkes

“Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot”

I well remember that poem from my childhood, reciting it by a bonfire on which an effigy of a man named Guy was burning. It marks a notable event in British history: the foiling of a plot to kill the King and all of Parliament.

For those not so familiar with British politics, even today, the State Opening of the British Parliament is a grand affair. The members of the House of Commons are summoned to the House of Lords to hear the monarch give a speech announcing the legislative programme for the forthcoming year.  The programme will have been decided upon by the Ministers these days, of course.

On 5th November, 1605, the King was due to speak at the State Opening of only the English Parliament, England and Scotland at that point still being formally separate countries.  That King, James I of England, had been James VI, king of Scotland, for well over 35 years and yet was still below the age of 40!  He had been King of England for less than two years following the death of Elizabeth I and had proclaimed himself King of Great Britain only months before as an early step toward unification.

Matters were pressing.  England and Spain were at war.  James was a Protestant but the Spanish wanted to see a Catholic on the newly united British throne.  Although James was known to be more tolerant of different religious views than his English predecessor, Catholics at home felt oppressed and in the English heartland some formed a plot to kill James and the assembled parliamentarians at the State Opening and then install James’s nine-year old daughter on the English throne as a Catholic Queen. bonfire

To cut a long story short, after hearing rumours, the authorities searched the Parliament building late at night on November 4th and in the basement was discovered one Guy Fawkes, with a fuse and a pocket watch and 36 barrels of gunpowder hidden under faggots and coal.  Fawkes, of course, was not alone, but merely the front man of the plot.  Many of the plotters left London and were killed in Staffordshire.  Others were captured and soon suffered the rather gruesome fate of being hanged, drawn and quartered at the hands of public executioners in London.

Shortly afterward, Parliament passed the Observance of 5th November Act 1605 which required church services and sermons annually on that day.  The bonfire and firework tradition started virtually immediately too and obviously continues throughout much of Britain over 400 years on, being known as Guy Fawkes Night, Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night.  Early American records apparently show too that Guy Fawkes Night was popular in the colonies.

And, even to this day, no State Opening of Parliament takes place without a ceremonial search of the House of Lords basement!

So, what does all this have to do with the Guild?

Well, it turns out that no fewer than three of the thirteen plotters had surnames presently under study: Thomas BATES, Sir Everard DIGBY and Thomas PERCY.

We spoke with Nic Pursey, the owner of the PURSEY/Percy One-Name Study in connection with this piece.  He has been studying the two names for over five years now and has his own website.  Given the grand history of the Percy clan as Earls of Northumberland it appears that many more humble members of the Pursey tribe have over the years changed the spelling of their name, but Nic has yet to find any solid connection in lineage between the two names.  Pursey appeared first in Hertfordshire and has another centre in Somerset, far from Northumberland!  Nic has also written a recent piece on Thomas Percy, which you can see here:  He tells us too that a Robert Percy, a relative of Thomas, married in Wiveliscombe, Somerset in 1615 and had four children in Taunton, adding to local spelling confusion.  If you have Purseys in your study, Nic would be pleased to hear from you.  You can send him a mail by clicking here.


This is the second in an occasional series.  If you are a Guild member reading this, does your study have a special day for remembering your name, like 5th November or Trafalgar Day?  Would you like us to publicize your study on that day?  If so, send us an email by clicking this link.

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