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Saturday, April 15, 2017

My Ancestors, Going On A Journey of Discovery: The Ascott Martyrs

For the past couple of years, infact, since I gave up work (oh the joy of retirement) I have been doing some research into my family history. With the advent of the internet it's now possible to do quite a considerable amount of this research without leaving the comfort of your home. I've enjoyed enormously the BBC1 television series "Who Do You Think You Are?" It's not so much the fact that we follow the journey of some celebrity or other, I think it's what they discover about their ancestors. Some manage to delve no more than a few generations back, perhaps to the time of the Second World War, whilst others manage to find out about their forebears going back several hundred years. This sort of research builds on my fascination with history and the 'discovery' aspect of things, uncovering bits of history and then connecting these 'snippets' to my family history. The same can be said of another interest,  archaeology,which, as a teenager I would have found thoroughly dull and boring, but as a much older person, I find thoroughly intriguing. All that stuff, buried only feet below the ground, just waiting to be unearthed and explained. That was sparked off by the Channel 4 series "Time Team." Amazing when television has this sort of ability, good-quality documentaries about real things, not trivial such as a 'reality' show, not 'Big Brother,' idiotic non-entities sitting around in a house, doing nothing in particular, or 'celebrities' making fools of themselves in stupid shows such as "I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here." What television executive came up with that idea for a show? Desperation chasing after viewing figures and nothing more.  

I began my quest for my maternal and paternal line by subscribing to a site with the original name of Ancestry and then I discovered a site called My Heritage. I was on a free membership of that for a couple of years and then I decided to pay for a subscription. With a free membership of these sites you have a limited amount you can search for and begin to build a basic family tree. Then last year i decided to go the full thing and buy a membership package, which meant I could not only build up the family tree but to then join forces with other people on the site who were doing similar research. I was really surprised how many others were doing research of different areas of my ancestry. I could use what research others had managed to do and add to my family tree. I'm just surprised how far I have been able to get, to around 1520.

I had done the barest minimum of research on my Murdoch forebears and can only get back around 200 years. Perhaps it's because they lived in Scotland but it's perhaps that there are that there aren't many other people doing research which I can add to my own research. The maternal side of my family, the Ferriman side, is far easier to research as there are a great many other people who are out there doing similar research. As a result I have got back to around 1520, as I have already mentioned. There are connections to several families, the Eddons, Pursers and mostly the Pratleys. My grandfather and grandmother came from across The Cotswolds, both Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire. Mostly around Stow-On-The-Wold and Burford. A small village close to Burford called Leafield. I have done quite a bit of research by merely using Google searches. I recently Googles 'Leafield' and found a site which bought up a great many details of the Pratley family who lived and worked in that area. I then came across something which has really caught my attention. I may have found the names, dates and basic facts of many of my ancestors, but no real details or what they did. This is what makes the television show "Who Do You Think You Are?" when the subjects of these programmes discover something extra-interesting about them, some incident which stands out. In this case I came across a historic even regarding "The Ascott Martyrs." There is a  chestnut tree on the village green in a village in Oxfordshire called Ascott-Under-Wychwood. Around this tree are four steel seats painted black and bolted together around this tree. Each bear an inscription. One has the words "Ascott Martyrs imprisoned 1873." The next lists the names of "Amelia Moss, Caroline Moss, Jane Moss, Martha Moss, Mary Moss, Ellen Pratley, Elizabeth Pratley, Mary Pratley." These Partly ladies are my ancestors, through my Ferriman line of the family. I will not go into too much detail on here, as it's possible to find out far more by Googling 'Ascott Martyrs.' The incident very much has similarities to a far more famous incident called 'The Tolpuddle Martyrs.' All about setting up unions. As a result we visited this place so I could at least put the places I've researched into some sort of context. I shall continue with my research but this historic incident has made the whole experience far more interesting. At least someone did something which was rebellious and exciting, in an attempt to change things.

Plaque on bench on the green at Ascott-Under-Wychwood

Me on bench. (Sorry, I do look miserable in this photograph!)

Me standing under signpost showing a lot of the village where many of my  Ferriman ancestors came from

It's odd that I've always has a sort of affinity with the Cotswolds. Knowing that so many of my ancestors came from the area, lived and worked in and around that area makes it even more interesting. The scenery is quite breath-taking. It amazes me that people can say that Britain is boring, that there's nothing much to see. I cannot agree. Why go abroad for a holiday when there is so much history and so much amazing scenery to enjoy? And in such a relatively small space. You don't have to go too far, either, to come across something fascinating to look at and discover, as we've done over the past few years.

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