Searching for a Stourton Connection… Part 2

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the search for a connection in my family to the Stourton family of Wiltshire. Anyone who has been to Stourhead may know that it was the site of the family seat for some time. Although, there was the tricky business of being Catholics in a Protestant country and therefore fleeing England for a time. It was sold by the family at some point too. If you visit the Church, there are memorials to the Stourton family. [Note: This post was written in September 2020, please check current restrictions and guidelines before travelling or visiting anywhere]

There is a theory in my family that we are related to the Stourtons via the Sydenham family (also quite a prolific Somerset Medieval family). My last post on the subject talked about the History of Parliament Online and how it can aid in the search for Medieval ancestors. My search is still ongoing for that elusive connection, but in the process of my research, I have come across some further resources that are definitely worth exploring.

Local publications

Sometimes the results of a Google search, or something from those results, can prove enlightening. One of my Google searches for a particular place associated with my Sydenham family in the late 1500s, proved just that. It led to an online version of a Somerset Record Society publication, itself a publication of an earlier work. This work was entitled “The Particular Description of the County of Somerset” and was thought by the editors to have been drawn up by Thomas Gerard of Trent in 1633. This particular work is interesting to me because it contains descriptions of places and partial histories or coats of arms associated with those places. It is much like a Victorian Gazetteer, but from the 1600s. It doesn’t give me the exact answers I am looking for, but it does give me some more clues which I can add to those I already have. I do feel that Medieval genealogy can be like a jigsaw, but with a partial (or no) picture! You collect pieces of information and then try to work out how they fit together.

This Somerset Record Society publication gave me further terms to search for and in one of those searches, an online volume of Notes & Queries for Somerset & Dorset popped up. Again, it didn’t give me all the answers, but it did give me some more clues. I have now searched the Somerset Heritage Centre’s online catalogue and come up with various documents that may give me more pieces of the puzzle.

Searching for a Stourton Connection...Part 2_Shersca Genealogy_SRS Wills
The SRS Somerset Wills publications- I was left these by a relative! © 2020 Shersca Genealogy.

Somerset Record Society (SRS)

So why am I mentioning these publications? My point here, is to say that published editions of local historical records and journals are well worth searching, especially if the ancestors you are looking for are of the more Medieval persuasion. The Somerset Record Society have published over 97 volumes since 1886. They concern a variety of records relating to Somerset and they are published with the aim of making these records available in print. This is especially helpful for records that could be more difficult to access or are no longer available. The poor survival rate of Somerset Wills is well known, but the SRS have two volumes containing abstracts of Somerset Wills made before the destruction occurred. These are part of a small group of invaluable documents relating to Somerset Wills.

But the SRS has published much more than just Wills. Searching an old version of the list of their volumes, the records range from Medieval Feet of Fines, to 17th Century Quarter Sessions records, to some non-conformist records. The emphasis does seem to be on records ranging from the Medieval, up until the 1600s. These are generally harder to access for the public at large and are perhaps thought more valuable to commit to print.

It is not just Somerset however, that has a Record Society. The Royal History Society website has a list (linking to websites) of English Regional History and Record Societies. There are both county and town/city based societies, as well as a link to the Société Jersiaise in Jersey. It is certainly worth exploring what societies exist for your county or area. General history sources are just as useful as genealogical ones. Firstly, it gives you an idea of the history of the area you are researching and secondly, you might just get lucky enough to find your ancestor.

Notes & Queries for Somerset and Dorset

Notes & Queries for Somerset and Dorset is also a long running publication, having been in print since 1888. It differs from the SRS as it publishes articles more than actual records. But these articles take in a wide range of topics, including those of historical and genealogical interest. There might be articles on architecture or local dialect, just as long as it relates to Somerset or Dorset. Again, this set of journals have a twofold use for genealogists and family historians, i.e. the information they can give you about an area and about the people that lived there. Although, you do have to remember that sometimes it is the more notable people tend to end up being studied.

British Association for Local History (BALH)

Another notable source for local history, is the British Association for Local History (BALH). They produce a journal four times a year, which contains articles about various aspects of local history. Their journal might be a little more general than a county or regional society may be, but you never know what you might find. Looking at the contents of volumes from the last few years, the topics are very diverse. All different parts of the country are represented, as are a variety of time periods and aspects of social history. At the time of writing (September 2020), the BALH have made all but the most recent issue free to download due to the current pandemic. I can certainly see myself browsing the titles soon!

Searching for a Stourton Connection...Part 2_Shersca Genealogy_Stourton Church
Stourton Church, Wiltshire. Memorials to the Stourton family can be found here. © 2020 Shersca Genealogy.

Where can they be found?

As for access to the SRS publications and Notes & Queries, they are more easily accessible than you might think. The societies themselves obviously sell copies and may have specific deals for members. But local libraries and institutions will often have copies too. The Somerset Heritage Centre has copies of both SRS and Notes & Queries. Notes & Queries has a helpful section on their website which lists where you can find the publications. For access in a time like this where travelling is not so easy, Notes & Queries has some versions digitised on both FindMyPast and the Internet Archive ( The SRS also has some digitised copies on the Internet Archive. Don’t forget to check online with institutions like The Hathi Trust too.

If Somerset societies and publications are online, then there are likely to be others for other counties. There are likely various societies and local journals that relate to your county or area of interest. There are probably many more relating to Somerset that I couldn’t fit in this blog post!

As for the Stourtons, the saga continues! I now have more puzzle pieces, so the search goes on….

© 2020 Shersca Genealogy.

The Symons family: Part 5, Another Wandering Symons?

We have finally reached the end of our Symons journey. This is the final post in the Symons Family story. Previously, we discovered the family’s humble beginnings with William Symons. We then discovered how he went on to found a brick and tile making company that was very much a part of the Symons family for at least one hundred years. William’s son, William, played a short part in the company, whilst the descendants of William’s daughter Mary Ann remained within the company for three generations. We found out about the family’s trial’s and tribulations, as well as their successes. The sad story of Muriel Toogood and the business triumph of William Elstone Peirce. We gained an insight into family life and relationships. Who could forget the seven needlework pictures of Mary Ann Symons or the falling out with James Cook (husband of Ellen Symons)?

And through all of this, in the background has been the brick and tile making company of Colthurst, Symons & Co. The company that supported many of my ancestors and the house that provided both a workplace and a home: Midway House. This final chapter tells the story of the final generation to be involved with both the company and the house. This is the story of Ernest John Toogood.

The Final Symons

Ernest was born in 1897, likely at Midway House as the local directory records this as the residence of his father (in the capacity of brickyard manager) in that year.[1] [Ernest’s birth certificate is still on the way at the time of writing.] He was baptised on the 17 March that year in Burnham, which is another good indication of his place of birth.[2] He was one of the seven Toogood children mentioned in the last post (born to John Jeffries Toogood and his wife Blanche). They were Grace Darling, Muriel Gwendoline Doris, Ellen Mai, Cecil George, Ernest John, Vera Blanche and Leo Elstone.

The Symons family, Part 5_Shersca Genealogy_Family tree for Ernest Toogood
Family tree for Ernest John Toogood. © 2020 Shersca Genealogy.

The 1901[3] and 1911[4] Census records both tell us that Ernest likely spent his childhood at Midway House in Burnham. His sisters Muriel and Mai were both dressmakers and his brother Cecil was an ironmonger’s apprentice. Prior to this point, no daughters living in the house had undertaken any sort of work. This could signal the need to rely on other sources of income as well as Colthurst & Symons. I have already said that Ernest’s grandfather William Elstone Peirce, seems to have enjoyed a higher status in the company than Ernest’s father John. This may have been the start of a downturn for the company and the family at Midway House.

The War years

Like so many men, Ernest served in the Army in the First World War. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find his service record. It was probably one of the many that were destroyed during bombing in the Second World War, but Ernest’s Medal Card does survive. It does not give a lot of information, but it says that he was entitled to the Victory and British Medals.[5] With the help of this medal card and an interesting newspaper article from 1962 (more on this later), we know that Ernest was in the Royal Engineers during the War. They were specifically a part of tunnelling operations at that time.[6] This may be what Ernest was involved with.

After the end of the War, he married a French woman in Paris in 1919.[7] She was Anna Aimée Eymard and was born on the 12 July 1897, (in Mariol, Allier, France) to Marius Alphonse Ernest Eymard and his wife Marie Madeleine Auroux.[8] A cousin who remembers the family says that Anna was for some reason always known as Maddy. Perhaps that was because it was her mother’s middle name? Who knows, perhaps it was decided that Maddy was easier on English tongues! The amount of genealogical detail in her birth record puts British ones to shame! If anyone was wanting to trace Maddy’s family further, her birth record gives both of her parent’s names and ages, as well as the names and ages of her grandfather and her great-grandfather! They happened to be witnesses when the birth was registered with the state at the local Mairie (town hall). Most helpfully, it also notes her marriage to Ernest in Paris. Ernest and Maddy’s daughter Simone was also born in Paris on the 24 December 1917.[9]

You may have noticed that this was before her parent’s marriage. It seems that Simone was initially born out of wedlock but her birth record has an entry in the margin for her parent’s marriage in 1919 with a note that seems to legitimise the birth in the eyes of the law. Paris (and France in general) must have been very difficult during the First World War. ‘Very difficult’ probably cannot begin to describe the experiences of soldiers and civilians alike. If French attitudes to illegitimacy were anything like British ones, having a child out of wedlock with a British soldier cannot have been easy. Simone’s birth record says that her mother Maddy was a ‘femme de chambre’ (chamber maid) at the time, so she may not have had much financial security.

Return to England

In any case, Ernest and his new family did not stay in France. The family moved back to England at some point after 1919. I don’t yet know exactly where they lived after the War (bring on the 1921 Census next year!), but some letters written by Ernest do survive from the 1920s.

The Toogood family c. 1919. Back row: L-R, Ernest, Muriel, Cecil, Leo, Vera. Front row: L-R, Mai, John Jeffries, George Bishop and his mother Grace Toogood. © 2020 Shersca Genealogy.

By this time, his sister Muriel’s mental health was deteriorating. He even sends his best wishes to her via her husband Harry in a letter from 1923.[10] This letter and the others written to his brother-in-law Harry, are all written from Midway House. At this time, Ernest’s father John is getting older and it would be quite possible that Ernest and his family are living at Midway House in order to support his father. Indeed, the difficult topic of my grandfather’s care is raised. Ernest writes to Harry in September of 1923 that:

“…as regards having the baby down here it is quite impossible at the present time as I dare say you know Dad has been under the doctors, and he has to keep very quiet, and Mai as you know is far from well, …it is more than my wife can do to look after the house and the children, without any more to look after…”[11]

The children that Ernest is referring to is not only his own daughter Simone, but Harry and Muriel’s other child (my grandfather’s sister), who was already staying with them and being looked after by Muriel and Ernest’s sister Mai. Not long after this, we know that Muriel entered an asylum and my grandfather entered an orphanage. It seems that there was a great strain on the family at the time, coming from various events. Even so, it does not seem that Ernest was being unkind. To me, it feels more that his household could not take anyone else. At this time, Ernest may have taken on the role of brickyard manager, especially if his father was getting older and in the midst of an illness. That would mean that Ernest was likely the only worker bringing in any money for the household. With a possible six occupants to support, Ernest must have really felt a weight on his shoulders.

The final journey

By 1939, Ernest and Maddy were the only occupants of Midway House and perhaps it is no surprise that Ernest was a brick and tile works manager.[12] Ernest’s father John had passed away in 1934[13] and his sister Mai had by this point moved to Stoke-sub-Hamdon (Somerset). We know that my great-aunt grew up in Stoke with Mai and Mai’s husband, Arthur Grinter. I will need to do a little more research to find out exactly when the other siblings (Cecil and Vera) left Midway House. To go from so many family members in the house to so few must have been quite strange. The 1911 Census tells us that Midway House had 8 rooms. Perhaps Ernest and Maddy felt lonely living there on their own. Their daughter Simone does not appear with them on the 1939 Register either.[14]

Eventually, the last Symons to live in Midway House emigrated to Australia.[15] Ernest and Maddy left in 1962, after Ernest had retired from Colthurst & Symons. The Western Daily Press even ran an article on the couple’s emigration in February of that year. They were interviewed and said that it was something they were looking forward too and had wanted to do for a long time.[16] That was because their daughter Simone emigrated in 1951[17] with her husband Harold Johnson and their two children. Ernest and Maddy’s departure also coincided with the closure of the final Colthurst & Symons brick yards in the 1960s.[18] As the Western Daily Press said, this ‘severed the 100 year connection of his family with the Burnham brick and tile firm of Colthurst, Symons & Co.’

The end of the story?

The Symons family, Part 5_Shersca Genealogy_Ern, Maddy and Simone
Ernest and Maddy with their daughter Simone, c. 1920s. © 2020 Shersca Genealogy.

From researching Ernest’s life, there are echoes of the transitory life of his great-uncle, William Symons, b. 1827 (brother of his grandmother Mary Ann). Both men saw their share of travel, although Ernest’s was a little more exotic! This last Symons was also involved in Colthurst, Symons & Co. more than his great-uncle. Ernest took over the family occupation of manager of the Burnham brick and tile yard and took over residency of Midway House. But change is a part of life and all things come to an end. It has been a fascinating journey for me, to be able to travel through the decades with one family who were so involved with a company and a house for so many years. Being able to collate all sorts of different sources and information to build up a fuller picture of the family and their lives has been wonderful. The other good thing is that I know there is still more to find!

[1] Directories. England. (1897) Kelly’s Directory of Somerset. London: Kelly’s Directories Limited. p. 160.

[2] Baptisms (PR) England. Burnham, Somerset. 17 March 1897. TOOGOOD, Ernest John. Collection: Somerset, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1914. : accessed 02 September 2020.

[3] Census. 1901. England. Burnham, Somerset. PN: RG13/2322. FL 62. SN 247. ED 13. p. 34. : accessed 23 January 2018.

[4] Census. 1911. England. Burnham, Somerset. PN: RG14/14565. SN 212. ED 4. : accessed 23 January 2018.

[5] Army Medal Office (Great Britain). WW1 Medal Index Card. TOOGOOD, Ernest. Regimental

number: 269162 (WR/271340). Collection: UK, British Army World War I Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920. : accessed 03 September 2020.

[6] Ministry of Defence. Corps of Royal Engineers: Corps of Royal Engineers Timeline. : accessed 03 September 2020.

[7] Marriages (CR) France. Arrondissement 04, Paris, Île-de-France. 02 December 1919. TOOGOOD and EMARD. Entry no. 1455. 4M 262. [p. 25] Collection: État civil de Paris: Actes d’état civil. Paris Archives. : accessed 03 September 2020.

[8] Births (CR) France. Mariol, Allier, Auvergne. 12 July 1897. EYMARD, Anna Aimée. Entry no. 7. 2 Mi EC 172 5. [p. 170] Collection: Les Registres Paroissiaux, D’état Civil. Archives départementales de l’Allier. : accessed 03 September 2020.

[9] Births (CR) France. Arrondissement 13, Paris, Île-de-France. 24 December 1917. EYMARD (TOOGOOD), Simone. Entry no. 3364. 13N 236. [p. 6] Collection: État civil de Paris: Actes d’état civil. Paris Archives. : accessed 03 September 2020.

[10] Toogood, Ernest. (1923) Letter to Harry and Doll, [date unknown]. Topic: Regret to hear that Doll (Muriel) is unwell, as well as news about his family (including daughter Simone). Digital copy of an original letter in the possession of Nina Griffiths.

[11] Toogood, Ernest. (1923) Letter to Harry Morgan, 08 September. Topic: The question of the care of Harry and Muriel’s baby and how it would be impossible for the baby to come to Midway House. Ernest’s father and sister are both unwell and his wife is looking after everyone. Digital copy of an original letter in the possession of Nina Griffiths.

[12] 1939 Register, England. Burnham-on-sea, Somerset. TOOGOOD, Ernest J. 29 September 1939. Schedule 271/1. RG101/7024I/002/40. National Archives (Great Britain), Kew, England. Collection: 1939 Register. : accessed 23 January 2018.

[13] Deaths (CR) England. Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset. 26 May 1934. TOOGOOD, John. Entry no. 174.

[14] 1939 Register, England. Burnham-on-sea, Somerset. TOOGOOD, Ernest J. 29 September 1939. Schedule 271/1. RG101/7024I/002/40. National Archives (Great Britain), Kew, England. Collection: 1939 Register. : accessed 23 January 2018.

[15] Passenger list for the S.S. Stratheden arriving Fremantle, Western Australia, Australia [Sydney noted as the disembarkation point]. TOOGOOD, E J. March 1962. National Archives of Australia, Parkes, ACT, Australia. Collection: Fremantle, Western Australia, Passenger Lists, 1897-1963. : accessed 07 September 2020.

[16] Western Daily Press. (1962) The New Life of Ernest Toogood. Western Daily Press. February. [Page and column unknown] Copy of an article in the possession of Alison Black.

[17] Board of Trade (Great Britain). Passenger list for Strathmore departing London for Sydney, NSW, Australia. 07 June 1951. JOHNSON, Simone. Collection: UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960. : accessed 07 September 2020.

[18] Tweedie, Andrew. Colthurst, Symons and Co.,_Symons_and_Co : accessed 06 July 2020.