W wanders around the world

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

W is for West Drayton (Nottinghamshire, England)

West Drayton church where John Cass was buried. © P Cass 2006

My husband’s Cass ancestors were in West Drayton in the early 19th century where his 3x great grandfather, John Cass, was a teacher. John and his wife Suzannah had married in Southwark, London, so presumably there was a reason for them to relocate. We visited the small village in 2006 but didn’t manage to find out any more about the family’s life or work in West Drayton. We did hit it lucky with information for John Cass’s widow in Retford and Moorgate, thanks to a kind gentleman in West Drayton who referred us to the local library.

If any of my English readers have home-grown tips on how to pursue this further, I’d be very pleased to hear of them.

W is for Wewak (Papua New Guinea)

Another guest post from Mr Cassmob in the A to Z series on the places he lived in Papua New Guinea. Although we visited there for a weekend while we lived in Goroka, our memories of it from that time are hazy.

The beautiful crushed-coral beach at Wewak. © P Cass

Wewak is the capital of the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea where I lived at Brandi High School, 9 miles outside Wewak, when his father was Headmaster there in the late 1950s. The school – dormitories, classrooms, kitchen – was built on the river flats. All the buildings were on stilts 3-4 feet high, so that when the river overflowed after heavy rains, the floods ran under the buildings, across the soccer fields and down to the sea. From the Cassmobs’ house high on the hill, they looked out over the school and the jungle to the black-sand beach, where the incoming waves created an unremitting 24-hour roar which was deafening at first and then merged into the background.

This was the time of Indonesia’s konfrontasi with Malaya. Australia expanded its defence capabilities, including construction of airstrips in theSepik mountains and building a new barracks for the Pacific Islands Regiment at Moem Point between Wewak and Brandi. This meant goodbye to lazy Sundays picnicking on Moem Beach and snorkelling over the coral reef 10 yards offshore.

W is for Würzburg (Bavaria, Germany)

Rococo splendour in Würzburg. © P Cass

Würzburg is the home of the archdiocesan archives for the Catholic church in the Franconia region. I’m sure in my short visit I only scratched the surface of what was available, hampered by language as well as time. However among their holdings are the parish registers and family books (Familienbücher) for the various Catholic parishes. Würzburg itself is also a pretty city with lovely old buildings to view, but what is sight-seeing when family history opportunities await. I also visited the general archives in an attempt to find out whether there were any military records from the 19th century, or departure permissions, but I was told (I think) that there were none. Of course we may have mutually misunderstood what the other person was trying to ask/convey.

W is for Wales (United Kingdom)

My Partridge family hover around the Welsh-English border and my 3x great grandfather states his place of birth as Monmouth (county or city, is the question). I believe I’ve found the correct baptism in Monmouth itself based on naming patterns and if so, I do indeed have links to Wales. We passed round the perimeter of Monmouth on a recent visit to the UK but didn’t have time to sightsee.

W is for Wallumbilla (near Roma, Queensland)

The Paterson and Kunkel families lived in the small settlement of Pickenjennie on the outskirts of Wallumbilla, while another set of relations, the Lees, lived in Wallumbilla itself. There have been Kunkel descendants in or near the town since the late 19th century.

If you have an interest in Wallumbilla I can recommend these two books:

Onward with Honour: Wallumbilla Primary School history by Roslyn Stemmler, 1993

Prickly Pear Frenchman by Roslyn Stemmler, 2009 ( I get very jealous of Roslyn’s collections of letters)

St Saviours, Moorgate: the link between Monty Don and Cass ancestors

Yesterday for a bit of light relief we decided to watch the Who Do You Think You Are episode from a few months ago (here in Oz) featuring Monty Don, famous for the TV series Around the World in 80 Gardens, which I loved. Some comments on the episode were less than enthusiastic but I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and found him to be keen to learn, intelligently reflective, and genuinely enthusiastic about the discoveries to provide more balance into his family tree. What endeared me most was his emphasis on the fact that his female ancestry was an equal part of his tree.

The rather lovely organ at St Saviours. To its right is the edge of Monty Don's 2 x great grandfather's memorial. Unfortunately none of my husband's ancestors were baptised in this christening font.

However none of this is why I decided to post. There we were, happily relaxing, when the focus shifted to Monty Don’s 2 x great grandfather who was an Anglican vicar/minister/priest. Lo and behold he had been the vicar at St Saviours Church, then in Clarborough Parish at Moorgate near Retford, Nottinghamshire in the 1840s. “So what” you might say…well this is the church where Mr Cassmob’s 3 x great-grandmother worshipped. Not only that, but she would have been a parishioner (hopefully not one of the absentee ones) when he read a clerical riot act to his potential client base dividing them into church goers, chapel goers and nowhere goers. He really didn’t sound at all the pastoral type and I can agree with Monty saying he didn’t warm to the man.

Mr Cassmob with the graves of his 4xgreat grandmother, his 3xgreat grandmother and her sisters, Charlotte and Martha.

We were especially pleased when the camera panned around part of the churchyard, not quite reaching the gravestones we found for Mr Cassmob’s 3 x great grandmother and her sisters as well as his 4 x great grandmother. What a red letter family history day that was in 2006 as the snow-flakes started to fall.. We had no idea the family was there until, starting in West Drayton nearby, one trail led to another and we ended up at St Saviours.

Elizabeth Walker (d 1835) is buried with or near her daughters, Charlotte Linton (d1863), Susannah Cass (d 1868) and Martha Walker (d 1876). Susannah and Martha had run a school for young women in Grove St Retford for many years prior to their deaths.

Front view St Saviours Church, Moorgate Retford, Nottinghamshire March 2006

The next morning being a Sunday, we thought we’d take ourselves off to the church close to the time of the service so we could see the inside. St Saviours’ web page says “the most important thing about any church is the people. The members of St Saviour’s Church come in many different shapes and sizes, and range in age from 0 to 99. We put a strong emphasis on welcoming all people”. Now in many cases one might find this to be simply a nice mission statement (pardon the pun). Not so at St Saviours where the welcome was immediate, we were introduced around, taken to after-service morning tea and chatted to by everyone. Truly one of the highlights of our family history searches overseas in a number of countries.

So Monty Don’s own personal genealogy took him along the same path to the church linking his ancestor to my husband’s in such a strange but interesting way. And the nice touch was that while the Rev Charles Hodge was known to be a preacher but not a pastor, the 21st century ambience is completely different and welcoming. Not surprisingly this episode with such evocative memories of Moorgate and Retford and St Saviours is destined for a place in our TV archives.

Grove St, Retord where Susannah Cass and Martha Walker ran a school for young ladies for many years. Specific address is not known.