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Distant relationships

Alan Craxford

Alan Craxford
Site administrator

A very warm welcome to the ORANGE pages: the sixth of our colour supplements. The nucleus of the idea behind this section has been present for some time but its gestation to reality has been slow. It will be immediately apparent that the content will focus on different families and it is perfectly true that on the surface they are not Craxfords at all. However on closer examination intriguing links and similarities will emerge between the subjects and stories presented here and those in other sections. The title of our site emphasises the two words "Extended" and "Family" and every one of the over 10,000 subjects in our database occupies a spot on a single family tree. Every one of those subjects shares a relationship with everyone else if not of blood then at least by marriage. Modern releases of genealogy software packages now have the ability to track those nonconsanguineous bonds. Whilst one of my Associate Editors is my maternal side fourth cousin, the other is my second cousin twice removed's husband's third cousin once removed!. They are however third cousins once removed but prior to this initiative they were not aware of one another.

And, speaking of this section's Associate Editors, their appearence here intriguingly mirrors the situation which prevailed at the opening of our first supplement "The BLUE Pages" and recounted in the "Meet the Editors" column. There, a researcher in Canada brought me in contact with an unknown cousin of my wife's family who lived just across the river from us. This time, after several months of separate but collaborative research on their respective family histories, it gradually dawned on us that not only did they live on the other side of the ocean to me but they also lived in towns in the same State only 90 miles apart.

The families featured in these pages may appear superficially to come from very disparate locations. However, closer examination shows that both geographically and historically they share common roots - their separation a distance of less than 50 miles. These roots grow from the eastern half of the East Midlands between Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire exhibiting common cause with "The RED Pages". The Craxford family arose from the Welland Valley during the first decades of the seventeenth century spreading aross the county and intermingling with several other families over the generations. Certainly the Tansleys and the Smiths whose stories are linked to this page, confirm that. In the main of agricultural stock every generation of these families would have been touched by the common experiences of war, pestilence and social change in each of the subsequent four centuries. It is another curiosity that it is Stuart Cook's non-Craxford family which shares the closer relationship here, whereas he has to straddle "The TEAL Pages" to find his Cook ancestors.

The first three stories share the common backdrop of the Great War. All three not only detail a particular personal and family tragedy but also expose an intriguing and unexpected facet of the history of the period. Each story came about from contact with a distant cousin who had a desire to learn more of a little known forebear who had paid the Ultimate Sacrifice. All three articles are the results of explorations and collaborations between researchers from around the globe to reach a conclusion into the circumstances of and background to their deaths. In doing so it has led us all to a fuller understanding of this savage time that our predecessors endured nearly one century ago.

Continued in column 3...

Page Added: June 8th 2010
Latest Update: March 3rd 2016

Transatlantic explorations

STU Cook

Stuart Cook
Associate Editor

My interest in our family history was triggered many years ago when my mother unexpectedly discovered the missing half of her family. She was born in Canada - a Canadian, even though both her parents were English. Her father was killed in WWl when she was just two years of age and her mother died when she was 13. She then traveled to England when she was 15 years of age, together with her younger sister, to be raised by her mother's family. The only family she knew was on her mother's side. Being so young I'm sure she never thought to ask questions or even knew what to ask. Over 20 years passed, not realizing her father's side of her family lived just 40 miles from her home. Since that time, as young as I was, I often wondered where the rest of my family came from, how they met and what they did. Unfortunately, due to my travels and time away from home the opportunities to ask appropriate questions did not arise. I regret now not making more of an effort to inquire of my relatives.

In the past few months I have learned more about my family and its roots than I ever thought possible and I continue to learn more each day. It all began in earnest soon after I retired and I had time on my hands. I decided to tidy up my very untidy home office. About the first thing I picked up was a large manila envelope stuck in the corner of a bookshelf. The envelope contained a couple of hand drawn family trees that had been on the shelf for almost 10 years after I had brought them over from a visit to England just prior to my mother's passing in 2001. I knew they were there but had not had the time to absorb the information. My second cousin Stephen Cook had compiled one of the trees, the other was drawn by my Aunt Gwen (nee Anker), inspired after discovering her Anker family. Combining the information from each tree provided quite a good family tree of both sides of my family but there were gaps, missing dates and some information turned out to be incorrect and I had little or no detailed history or specific events. That was about to change.

The tree drawn by Stephen takes the Cook side back to the 1700's and included the names of the towns our ancestors were born and died in. My closer family came from around the Watford area, King's Langley, Abbot's Langley, Hemel Hempstead. On Stephen's chart there were a couple of towns, North Marston and Grandborough, I did not recognize and I wondered where they were located. I did a Google search on "The Cook family, Grandborough" and lo and behold up came an old post dated 8th April 2009 from alias "Newfloridian" signed Alan who was searching for information on the same Cooks that I was looking at on the hard copy of the family tree I had in my hand! Well, I'll go to the foot of the stairs, I said to myself - I couldn't believe this.

Twenty minutes into starting my office clearing up task I had encountered Alan Craxford and The Craxford Family Genealogy Magazine. Via email he told me his mother's maiden name was Cook. It turns out we share the same great, great, great grandfather William Cook, b 1802, d 1871 - Alan and I were forth cousins! I first contacted "Newfloridian" in mid September 2009 and we have remained in contact since then, researching the Cook and Anker family. Alan has provided a wealth of information to fill gaps and dates in my Cook Family Tree. I was totally blown away when he came up with ships passenger lists showing my relatives travels to and fro across the Atlantic Ocean between England and Canada. Even more so, he has been a tremendous help in obtaining invaluable information regarding details of my grandfather PERCIVAL ANKER. From the day he immigrated to Canada, joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, trained at CAMP SEWELL and was then shipped to England and ultimately to the front line in France. By studying the BATTLE PLAN Alan was able to establish almost exactly where my grandfather fell.

My mother often referred to relatives and people in and around her family. Since I did not meet many of them I never quite understood the connection - I do now. In 1984 my mother spent untold hours compiling two sets of photograph albums for her grandchildren, obviously wanting them to know her family story. Each set was slightly different because she did not have enough photos for them to be the same. Each photo is labeled with a description and possibly a location. I have studied the albums together with my family tree and can now put a face to a name and understand whom they were when my mother spoke of them. In the second of each album, in a letter to her grandchildren she wrote, "It has been a mammoth task and you will never know how many times I have wanted to give it up, but have thought of you and carried on". I'm glad that I have now spent the time, albeit late in my life, to know my family and I'm eternally grateful for Alan's help in this process. I know my mother would be happy and proud to know I made such an effort and I will now be able to pass on my knowledge to my grandchildren. My mother finishes her letter to her grandchildren by saying, "My dearest wish is that you keep up a record of yourselves growing up, etc. and getting married and having children of your own. Then you can show them these books, and say they were left to you by: a very loving grandmother."

Incidentally, my office is still a mess since I have been totally absorbed in looking into my family history!

Stuart COOK: June 8th 2010

Feature articles

Detail from the Whittlesey War Memorial: Go to ORANGE page 2 THE ANKERS OF WHITTLESEY
Originally from the low countries, the Ankers settled in the fens of East Anglia. Their stories appear on page 2.

The WWI Silver War Badge: Read about the Moores and Walpoles at war BROTHERS IN ARMS: THE MOORES AND WALPOLES OF GEDDINGTON
"... it has been estimated that over 11,000 soliders on all sides were killed, wounded or missing on the final day of the war."

Kitchener poster: Read about Stanley Griffin THE SHORT LIFE OF STANLEY C. GRIFFIN
"Extremes of temperature (120 degrees F was common); arid desert and regular flooding; flies, mosquitoes and other vermin: all led to appalling levels of sickness and death through disease. "

Survey: Tell us what you would like to tell your great grandchildren IPSE DIXIT - A SURVEY
Given the chance, what would you ask your great great grandmother? What would you like your great great grandchildren to know about you?

Distant relationships (cont from Col.1.)

With no common thread the stories were originally placed in the Research Done section of the RED pages. In a way that left them somewhat incongruous with the rest of the content and with a low profile. The opening of this new section allows me to bring them together, giving them a commonality of purpose and a new-found prominence and emphasis. At the same time I believe it has maintained the structure of the magazine and enhanced the raison d'etre of the site as a whole.

There are still some unanswered questions in each of our stories to date and our authors would be gratified to receive any further information which would unlock these puzzles. In the meantime, thank you for reading, and we hope you will enjoy ...!

Newfloridian: June 8th 2010

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