Bull is the name . . . history is the game

John Bull is, according to the article in Wikipedia, the national personification of the United Kingdom in general, and England in particular.

One of my family names is Bull.

My grandmother, Alice Maud Bull, born on 16 April 1880, married my grandfather Thomas (Tom) Jackson on 23 August 1904. They had four children together, and she was also stepmother to Tom’s daughter and son by his first wife Maria Bishop, who died in childbirth in 1900.

Alice hailed from the village of Hollington in Derbyshire, about halfway between Ashbourne and Derby. Tom and Alice set up married life together in Burton-on-Trent, but returned to Hollington after Tom retired. Grandma was 68 when I was born; grandad was almost 76. So I only ever knew them as elderly folks.

My parents and my elder brother Edgar and myself with Grandma and Grandad Jackson at Ebenezer Cottage in Hollington, around 1958.

My father Frederick was the second child born to Alice and Tom, in September 1908. My dad married Lilian Healy in 1936; I was born 12 years later in November 1948, the youngest of four children. My middle name is Thomas, after my grandad. My wife Stephanie and I named our younger daughter Philippa Alice after my grandmother.

After my father passed away in 1980, my eldest brother Martin began a long search into our family ancestry, that has lasted more than 37 years. He has uncovered many of our family ties, stretching back (on the Bull line at least) to the late 15th century, some fifteen generations, and almost as far on several other lines.

I’m the 13th great-grandson of a man named Bull who was born around 1480 on the Staffordshire/Derbyshire border (where many of my ancestors hailed from), probably in or near Ellastone (as that was where his son and grandson were born and buried). Several generations of Bulls over 200 years lived in the village of Cubley in Derbyshire, less than five miles from Ellastone.

I’m also the 6th great-grandson of John Jackson (b. 1711, m. Hannah Clark 1732), the 9th great-grandson of Thomas Holloway (b. 1600, m. Isabella ?? around 1620), and 10th great-grandson of Hugh Tipper (b. 1574, m. Ellen Crichelowe in 1604 or 1605).

My father’s side of the family comprised, at the beginning of the 16th century, some 16,000+ direct ancestors, about 0.5% of the population of England. Do the maths. We can’t all have completely independent family lines, so they must come together in a vast web of inter-relatedness, sharing many ancestors in common, if we could just make the connections.

Knowing the names of my ancestors in this way also helps me connect vicariously with the major historical events through which they lived. But, because they were living in rural Staffordshire and Derbyshire, it’s hard to fathom how their lives might have been affected. The Bulls were, in general, farming and laboring stock.

King Richard III

Mr Bull was born, in 1480, at the end of the reign of King Edward IV, and five years before King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field that, as the last major battle of the Wars of the Roses as they became known, heralded the founding of the Tudor dynasty by Lancastrian claimant to the throne, Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII. Henry Tudor passed through this area, or perhaps a little to the south on his way to Bosworth Field. Were men from the villages around forced to join his army?

Thomas (b. 1505) lived through the end of the reign of Henry VII, and the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, (Jane) and Mary Tudor. It’s highly probable that the Dissolution of the Monasteries (beginning in 1536) was keenly felt, as there were several nearby monastic houses in Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Did they hear about the sinking of Henry VIII’s flagship, the Mary Rose, I wonder?

By the time his son and grandson, also both Thomas, had passed away, Elizabeth 1’s long reign had come to an end; the Tudors were history, and James I (and VI of Scotland) was on the throne, the beginning of the ill-fated Stuart dynasty. Thomas (b. 1581) and his son Robert (b. 1613) lived through the English Civil Wars between 1642 and 1651, the defeat of the Royalists, and the execution of Charles I in 1649, an event that must have rocked England to its very soul whether you favored the Royalist or Parliamentary side. Who did Thomas and Robert favor? The closest major conflict to where they lived in Cubley was the 1643 Royalist Siege of Lichfield, just 20 miles due south. Certainly both Royalist and Parliamentary armies criss-crossed this area of Mercia.

Here is a timeline of England during the 17th century.

Working class dress of the late 17th century

Robert (b. 1613), his son Robert (b. 1653), and grandson Joseph (b. 1679) knew the restoration of Charles II in 1680, then lived through the tumultuous years of James II and William III and Mary II, the Glorious Revolution, the consequences of which passed through to the late 20th century in Northern Ireland. During the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714), the kingdoms of England and Scotland were united into a single nation, Great Britain, under the Acts of Union. John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (an ancestor of Sir Winston Churchill) achieved significant military success in Europe during the War of the Spanish Succession.

Late 18th century dress, as depicted by Henry Singleton, ‘The Ale-House Door’ c. 1790

Joseph, son William (b. 1712), grandson Samuel (b. 1761), and great-grandson John (b. 1793) were Hanoverians through and through. This is an English timeline of the 18th century of industrial innovation.

Joseph lived through the two Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1745, the latter experienced very close to home as the Scots under Bonny Prince Charlie reached as far south as Derby. Fear and alarm must have spread throughout all communities in their path.

Samuel and John lived through the French Revolution in 1789, and the wars with Napoleon Bonaparte until his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Were they or their relatives called upon to serve under the Duke of Wellington?

John Bull, my 2nd great-grandfather was born in 1825, half way through the reign of George IV, and died in 1900 just as Queen Victoria’s reign was coming to an end. All my subsequent Bull ancestors were Victorians – a period of industrial expansion, the building of the railways (and demise of the canals), and Empire! My great-grandfather, John, was born in Hollington in 1855, and worked as smallholder farmer and coal merchant. The family remained in the same area of Derbyshire throughout the 19th century.

During five centuries many of my Bull family (and probably those who married into the Jackson line as well) came from and continued to live in quite a small area of Staffordshire and Derbyshire. People mostly married from the same communities, or from others not more than a handful of miles away. After all, a man had to do his courting on foot, until the late 19th century¹ at least. I’ve heard that Tom Jackson walked miles to court Alice.

It has been fascinating to see my family history unfold, and what Martin has achieved is truly incredible and inspiring. People, names, and dates bring history to life.


¹ John Jinks, who was Professor of Genetics at the University of Birmingham, hailed the safety bicycle as one 19th century invention that probably did more for human population genetics than had ever before occurred, since couples could now more easily court over greater distances.

 

 

Where do I come from?

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

In 1492, my 12th great grandfather Thomas Bull (on my paternal grandmother’s side) was a lad of about 12. At least we think that the burial record for ‘Thomas Bull’ at Ellastone in Staffordshire is the father of John, William and Thomas Bull in the same parish. If so, he’s my earliest known ancestor, going back 14 generations, when I would have had 16,384 direct ancestors. Half of these are ‘English’ and the other half ‘Irish’ from my mother’s side of the family.

The population of England around 1480 was probably less than 3 million (having gone through the demographic squeeze of the Black Death a century earlier). Just do the maths. We’re all related to each other more than we imagine. We can’t all have ‘independent’ ancestors; there must be a few drops of royal blue blood in all of us. Now my father’s side of the family resided in what once had been the Kingdom of Mercia, specifically in what we know now as north Staffordshire and southwest Derbyshire.

In 1483, Edward IV died and the crown was usurped by his youngest brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who became the notorious (if we are to believe Tudor propaganda) Richard III. Richard was defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485 – a site just 40 miles or so southeast from Ellastone. Henry VII became king and the Tudor dynasty was founded. I wonder what the Bull family were up to, and how did the final battle of the Wars of the Roses affect them – if at all?

But we are on firmer ground with Thomas Bull’s ‘son’, John Bull (my 11th great grandfather), born in 1525 in Ellastone, the youngest of three brothers. By the time his son, another Thomas was born in 1552, Henry VIII had come and gone, and his son, the short-lived Edward VI was king, and England was in the grip of a Protestant regime.

When my 8th great grandfather Robert was born in 1613, James I of England and VI of Scotland had been king for 10 years. In 1613, James’s daughter Elizabeth married Frederick V, Elector Palatine through whom the monarchs of the House of Hanover descended, including our present Queen. But when his son Robert was born in 1653, Charles I had already lost his head four years earlier, the three Civil Wars between 1642 and 1651 were over, and Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector.

Sixth great grandfather William Bull, born in 1712 and 6th great grandfather John Jackson (born 1711) were my first ancestors to be citizens of Great Britain following the Act of Union in 1707 uniting the Kingdoms of England and Scotland (which just might be rendered asunder in 2014 if the Scottish Nationalist Party has its way in the independence referendum). Dr John Arbuthnot created the character of John Bull in 1712 as the national personification of Great Britain, especially England. Abraham Darby had already developed his blast furnace in Coalbrookdale, and Thomas Newcommen was about to launch his atmospheric steam engine (about which I recently wrote).

Both my 3rd great grandfathers John Bull and John Jackson were born in 1793. After the excesses of the French Revolution, Great Britain was at war – again – with France; George Washington began his second term as POTUS.

My great grandfather John Bull was born in 1855, when the siege of Sevastopol ended, and the Crimean War ending a few months later. My Jackson great grandfather William was born sixteen years earlier in 1839, the same year that Louis Daguerre received a patent for his camera.

I knew both my paternal grandparents. Grandmother Alice Bull was born in 1880 and died in 1968. She was the second wife of my grandfather Thomas Jackson, who was born in 1872 and died in 1967.

My paternal grandparents, Thomas and Alice Jackson

Thomas had two children by his first wife Maria Bishop, and four with Alice – including my father, Frederick (born 1908, died 1980).

Thomas and Alice Jackson celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary in 1954 at Hollington, Derbyshire with their children and grandchildren. I’m sitting on the left, aged 5.

My father married Lilian Healy in 1936, and I’m the youngest of three brothers and one sister.

During the documented 500 years of this family history there were remarkable changes in society, by the way we were governed (from absolute monarchy to a constitutional one under a parliamentary system), by the change from a predominantly agricultural economy to an industrial one. From a small nation on the fringes of Europe to a world-wide empire (and back again). From the records seen, my ancestors were farmers, laborers and the like. Nothing grand. But they’re my ancestors, and because I can name them going back so many generations, it really does make a tangible link with the events through which they lived.

In another post I talked about my Irish ancestry – that’s a story that will take a long, long time and concerted effort to unravel.

My maternal grandparents, Martin and Ellen Healy

So how did I track down all these dates? I didn’t. It’s all the work of my eldest brother Martin who, in 1980 following the death of my father, began to research our family history which is documented on the fabulous ClanJackson website. The site contains information about the paternal genealogy of the Jackson, Bull, Tipper and Holloway families (and some from my maternal grandparents’ sides of the family).

It’s all in the genes . . .

It was 1969, maybe early 1970.

I was just leaving the university library at Southampton where I was studying botany and geography. I should add that this was one of my too infrequent visits to the library.

As I headed for the main entrance, I was approached by two teenage girls, one of whom had long, dark, straight hair. They ‘invited’ me to purchase a raffle ticket – I think it was something to do with one of the charity events that students tend to organize each year, and these two girls were at one of the education colleges in Southampton. So I bought a couple of tickets, and then did something rather out of character.

Turning to the girl with long hair, I asked: ‘Is your name Jackson?’

Well, the look on her face made me think I was right.

‘Yes’, she replied, still looking rather surprised.

‘In that case’, I answered, ‘I think you are my cousin Caroline’.

And she was. As soon as I saw her, something inside told me she was ‘family’.

Now I should point out that I had last met Caroline maybe a decade earlier – she would have been five or six, and me about eleven. In some ways it was not such a total surprise, since her father (my dad’s younger brother Edgar) and his family lived in one of the small towns in the New Forest, to the west of Southampton. But I hadn’t made contact with them since arriving in Southampton two or more years earlier, although I had seen Uncle Edgar and his wife Marjorie at the funerals of my grandparents in 1967 and 1968.

Now this memory came to the fore just the other day for a couple of reasons. I’ve been doing some web searches for friends from my university days, so all-things-Southampton were on my mind. Secondly, my youngest grandchild Zoë was born (in the USA) at the beginning of May, and I’d been thinking that she was the youngest of a long line of Jacksons and Healys (Healy being my mother’s maiden name), and wondering what she will make of her antecedents. In just a few generations (my great-great-great grandfather) we’re back to the time of the French Revolution. I also heard in June (via my brother Martin) that my mother’s younger brother Pat had recently died at the ripe old age of 97 – he was the last surviving of eight siblings. Martin had heard about Uncle Pat’s death through his son, Pat – a cousin I did not know I had.

After my dad died in 1980, Martin began a major project to research the family genealogy, which is available online. On the Jackson side of the family he’s been able to trace back to about 1711, and on the Bull side (my paternal grandmother’s side of the family), there’s information stretching back about 12 or 13 generations to around 1480! Other lines – the Tippers and Holloways – can be traced back to 1610 and 1600 respectively.

Martin is going to have a more challenging time of it on the Healy-Lenane side of the family, who hailed from Ireland, Co. Kilkenny and Co. Waterford.

I have now made Facebook contact with cousin Pat, who lives in the Forest of Dean, about 60 miles south of Bromsgrove where I live. And through Facebook, I was contacted by two cousins, Karen and Patsy – daughters of one of my mother’s younger sister Bridie who emigrated to Canada in the 1940s – who live in Indiana, USA and Ontario, Canada, respectively.

There’s only one of my father’s siblings alive – my Aunty Becky, 96, who lives near Newcastle Upon Tyne, and who I’ve visited a couple of times recently since we have been travelling to there to visit our younger daughter Philippa and her family.

But to get back to the genes. As I look at the photos of my parents and grandparents, I can see very clear resemblances of my daughters to one side of the family or the other. Hannah favours, I think, the Jackson side. Philippa is a strong Healy!

I haven’t mentioned anything about Steph’s side of the family: Tribble / Legg. Steph’s parents came from small families. Her father had just one sister, and I believe her mother was a single child, so there’s not the raft of aunts and uncles and cousins on her side of the family as on the Jackson-Healy side. But both Tribble (a West Country name) and Legg are not that common, so I guess if someone with the time and inclination were to look into this side of the family, some quite rapid progress could be made.