Do you remember the Girls’ Friendly Society in Ealing?

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The Girls’ Friendly Society was formed in January 1875 by Mary Elizabeth Townsend and others.  Unmarried girls were taught Christian values and lodges (houses) were set up for them to live in or to rest if they became ill.

Such a place was at Boyne Lodge, 22 Florence Road, Ealing, London.  It was run by Gertrude Marye Barnard from about 1890 – 1947.

Did you have relatives who lived at this address? Have your family kept any photographs or letters about it?

If so, would appreciate if you could email me.Image

Thank you.


Complexities of colour

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Understanding the description of a person’s colour over 200 years ago. Led me on a strange journey to try and find answers.

When I stumbled across a British artillery promotion book dated 1719 -1775 listing men’s place of birth, date of enlistment etc. My interest was piqued when I noticed in the column for complexion a few were described as black. Were these men of African origin?

Source: National Archives (Kew)

Promotion Book Artillery 1719-1775
Source: National Archives (Kew)

After reaching out to as many people who might be able to assist with this question.  It resulted in a mixed bag of opinions.

The British Army Museum said that it was common place in the 17th and 18th century to indicate white men with dark hair and complexions as black.  If the men were of African origin they would have been described as ‘negroes’. This was supported by The National Archives who stated the term black was meant differently than as opposed to now.

On the other hand there were of course opposite opinions that they were African, even though some of the men were from Ireland and Scotland. Having also myself seen descriptions of Africans described as black during this period too.  I’ve left it as a bit of mystery which is yet to be solved.  Interesting though.

Tracking the Panther: The Dutch West African Army

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Corporal Van Kooi by  JC Leich Bronbeek Museum, Arnhem, Netherlands

Corporal Van Kooi by
JC Leich
Bronbeek Museum, Arnhem, Netherlands

Coming across an article by Ineke van Kessel about the little known story of West Africans who served in the 1800’s Dutch East Indies Army. I became curious and wanted to find out more about their contributions.

Recruitment took place in Elmina and Kumasi, Ghana from 1831 to 1872 to solve a manpower problem of the East Indies army or KNIL (Koninklijk Nederlands Indisch Leger).   Most of the 3,080 recruits were men from the area of present day Ghana and Burkina Faso. These men married and had children with Javanese and Indonesian women creating an Indo-African community.

The army career ran in the family with sons and grandsons of the African soldiers serving in World War II against Japan and the Dutch war against Indonesian nationalists.

Some soldiers returned to Ghana after army service like Corporal Jan Kooi, the first African soldier to be awarded the highest military honours in the Dutch army: the Militaire Willemsorde (4th class).  Willem Nelk returned in 1881, whilst his son Joseph stayed behind to join the Dutch East Indies army aged 15 serving until 1910.

One such descendant is author and journalist Griselda Molemans. Whilst writing her book ‘Daughters of the Archipelago, she met Mrs. Evelien Cordus-Klink, a great-granddaughter of African soldier Klink. She and her husband said they knew an “uncle Molemans” in the African Quarter in the garrison town of Poerworedjo.

Intrigued by this information as only having knowledge of her Dutch-Indonesian ancestry.  A visit to the National Archives in The Hague solved the mystery. She discovered inscription documents for her great grandfather Jan Molemans and then his father, an African soldier Molemans born in Omsoum, Burkina Faso.  She decided to fly out to Burkino Faso and find out more about him.

His real name was Yambaga Ouédraogo and his title was ‘naaba’, village chief. He was 22 when he was abducted by slave hunters and taken to Kumasi, where he was sold to the Dutch KNIL army.  Enlisting on 28th March 1840, he bought his freedom for 95,50 guilders which was deducted from his salary every month.

The village elders in Omsoum said he had three wives and six children and that he always wore a panther skin as a royal sign. Omsoum is a small village in the Yatenga region, inhabited by the Mossi tribe. The villagers never knew that their chief was abducted and shipped to the Dutch-Indies; they were convinced he was transported to Timbuktu and had sent out a few men to try to retrieve Yambaga.

Their contributions to the Dutch army have been little known until now. To preserve the history of the African KNIL-soldiers and their descendants. Mr. Daniel Cordus founded the Indo-Afrikaans Kontakt (IAF) in 2002 for people to connect and meet.

Charting her journey in finding out about her African ancestor Griselda wrote a book “In the tracks of the Panther” and is producing a documentary ‘The Forgotten Warrior’ about the loyal KNIL army Indo-African men who survived imprisonment at the Burma Railway and Japanese mines, but were discriminated against when they moved to Holland.

Let’s hope there are more panther’s stories to be told.

Thanks to Griselda for sharing her story.

Sources: West Africans in the Dutch Colonial Army by Ineke van Kessel

Katibo Noiti Moro: Slavery No More!

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National Monument of Slavery, Oosterpark, Amsterdam

National Monument of Slavery, Oosterpark, Amsterdam

On 1st July 1863 slavery was abolished in the Dutch colonies of Suriname and the Netherland Antilles. This year will be its 150th anniversary. African slaves were still tied to an extra 10 years of labour before they were officially free.

The Keti Koti Festival (meaning broken shackles) being held in Amsterdam in July is commemorating this anniversary with talks, a remembrance ceremony and the laying of wreaths at the National Monument of Slavery.

Jennifer Tosch organises black history tours in Amsterdam which offers visitors an insight into the lives of enslaved and free blacks who lived in the Dutch colonies. Her inspiration to start the tours came from her attendance at the Black Europe Summer School (BESS) and seeing a lack of positive narratives about the presence and contributions of the African Diaspora in the Netherlands.

The stories included in the tours are Quassie van Timotibo who became a Surinamese herbalist and a notorious slave hunter. Born in 1692 Guinea, West Africa and transported to Suriname as a child.  In recognition for his work he was presented in 1730 by the Court of Policy with a breast plate that read “Quassie faithful to the whites” for his efforts. He died in Paramaribo, Suriname in March 1787.

Jacobus Elisa Johannes Capitein was born in Ghana and sold as a slave to a Dutch captain Arnold Steenhart. He became a Christian minster.  Controversially he wrote a dissertation in 1742 defending the rights of Christians to keep slaves!

Surinamese resistance fighter and anti-Colonist author Cornelius Gerard Anton De Kom who worked tirelessly to highlight the conditions of the Surinamese population, putting him on the radar of the colonial government who accused him of being a communist.  He was arrested by the Germans on 7th August 1944. Dying of tuberculosis in a concentration camp in 1945.  His book “Wij Slaven Van Suriname” (We Slaves of Suriname) was censored when first published in 1934.

Visits to the canal side homes once owned by wealthy merchants and shareholders of the VOC (East India Company) or WIC (West India Company), still bear connections to Africans by the depictions of “moor’s heads” on buildings and families’ coat of arms.

The City Archives in Amsterdam have launched a useful website about Amsterdam and Slavery. Make sure you brush up on your Dutch as it hasn’t been translated yet!

Also the Municipal Archive has presented an 1863 map of locations in Amsterdam where slave owners lived.

Dutch slave owners and shareholders of plantations that used slave labour received financial compensation. Most owners lived in Paramaribo or the Antilles, but some lived in the Netherlands.  There are plans to expand the research to compile maps showing where all 17th and 18th century slave owners lived.

Before writing this article my knowledge of the Dutch slave trade was basic. Only after reading some of these stories I’ve discovered there is so much more out there to learn.

Jacobus_Capitein 1745

Jacobus Capitein 1745

Highway robbery and other tales #OBO10

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'May Morning' by John Collet c.1760. Courtesy of Museum of London

‘May Morning’ by John Collet c.1760. Courtesy of Museum of London

My introduction to the Old Bailey website resource was whilst researching the UK origins of a client’s descendant deported to Virginia in 1758 due to theft of goods.

From general searches I came across two cases which offered an insight into the lives of two black men in 1700’s England. They interested me because they were victims of crime as opposed to being accused.

The first was highway robbery victim Richard (no surname). Anne Smith and Jane Evans were charged with assault and robbery on 13th January 1716 of a silver collar; value 15 shillings; the goods of William Jordan.

The story was Richard on 6th December 1715 was sent on an errand by Jordan and had met Anne Smith along the way. He complained that as he been away a long time he feared going home. Smith told him his collar would betray him and advised him to take it off. They went to a fruit seller and Smith and Evans broke the collar off with their teeth and took it away.  Richard eventually went home and told his master what had happened.  Smith was arrested and confessed Jane Evans had taken the collar off and sold it.  Smith was found guilty of a lesser felony offence.

The facts of the case which stood out to me were Richard was a slave of William Jordan and the collar he wore round his neck would have identified him as his property. No evidence was heard by Richard only the sworn evidence of Jordan. Many questions came to mind.  Who were Richard and William Jordan? Did Richard want to escape and then got cold feet?  Fascinating case.

The second case was John Guy the victim of violent theft and robbery on 4th August with the trial held on 8th September 1736.  Sarah Jones and Mary Smith stood trial for taking goods from him that were a silk handkerchief; value 3 shillings and 17 guineas. He had just got paid from the Ship Newcastle and was walking along Rosemary Lane and met two women and asked them for lodging.  He went with them to Edward Whitcher’s house where they dined on salmon, punch and a quartern of brandy!

Guy stated “when he went to bed one of the women came to bed to me tho’ I would not let her.  The oldest prisoner pull’d up her coats and bid me look at – and told me it was as black as my face.  I would not do it, but went to sleep, and when I waked I found all my money gone. One of the girls own’d before Justice Farmer, that 8 guineas and 4s of my money was divided among them”

Prisoner Smith: Did not you swear your money on another woman?

Guy: Why Mary you know, you took my breeches from under my head.

The prisoners in their defence said that the black gave them the money. Both acquitted.

One of the things that interested me was prisoners had the right to question their victims.  What happened to John Guy and where did he come from?  Was he destitute as a result of losing his wages? As 17 guineas was a lot of money in those days.

Happy 10th Anniversary and here’s to many more hours of searching!


Sarah Jones, Mary Smith, Violent Theft > robbery, 8th September 1736.

Reference Number: t17360908-39
Offence: Violent Theft > robbery
Verdict: Not Guilty

Anne Smith, Violent Theft > highway robbery, 13th January 1716.

Reference Number: t17160113-18

Offence: Violent Theft > highway robbery
Verdict: Guilty > lesser offence

Same crime, different time

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Whilst researching family history information for a client. Came across an article about London Underground tube fare evasion in the Yorkshire Evening Post dated 1935.

The guilty individuals were summoned to appear before the London Mayor for paying less for their tickets.

Can you imagine getting a ticking off from Boris Johnson? Maybe they should give it a try!

Yorkshire Evening Post  23rd January 1935British Newspaper Library

Yorkshire Evening Post 23rd January 1935
British Newspaper Library

Christian name changes in genealogy


Christian name changes or variations have certainly kept me on my toes recently.

Discovered Mary became Minnie, Roderick to Murdoch, Annie to Hannah and Jessie to Janet.

Any other interesting name variations out there?

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