10th aniv special May 1989




The Family History Society




In the school holidays we get an influx of boys, invariably boys, who inspect the Library Reading Room and demand 'something to look at on those machines'. My stock answer is that if they ask for something that is on microfilm then they can look at it on a microfilm reader. As we do not have maps or articles on ancient Egypt or dinosaurs on film this usually works well although one lad clearly had the right contacts and returned, triumphant, to ask for the first Manx newspaper.

Many genealogists trapped on 'those machines' with the parish register indexes and copies, the census and the wills must wonder about the right question to allow them to sit at the tables and read real books and documents. There is rarely any substitute for the basic filmed sources but for those with time to spare or faced with a dead-end a browse through the book catalogues and the manuscript indexes might provide both the right question and some further foliage for their family tree.

The fact that the majority of the important genealogical sources are on microfilm is due to the popularity of family history rather than to some behind-the-scenes campaign to make life as uncomfortable as possible for addicts. Even if you have squeaky clean hands, use a book-rest correctly, never lean on a book or document or rest your writing paper on it and do not let any writing implement more lethal than a pencil within five yards of it, every time something is removed from the controlled environment of the stack, brought into the light and handled it suffers some degree of damage, albeit invisible. When the original materials are poor the problem is compounded as some of the directories demonstrate. The original census enumerators' returns and most of the early newspapers would no longer exist if they had not been protected by microfilming.

In the Manx book catalogue the most obvious sections for the family historian are biography (G88) and genealogy (G90). The biography section is particularly useful for locating obituaries in the Manx Quarterly (1907-1922). However, almost every other section has possibilities if you want to put ancestors into their background - Bawden et al Industrial 'Archaeology of the Isle of Man' for miners, for instance, or Constance Radcliffe's 'Ramsey 1600-1800' for northern town life.

The General Reference catalogue contain - s less of interest although the works on earlier handwriting may help fortunate researchers who have got back far enough in the records.

Manuscript family trees and genealogical notes deposited with the Library can be a good starting point or check for your own research; deposit with the Library carries no inherent guarantee of accuracy, of course. They can be found via two indexes, in the Manuscript drawers under G for genealogy and in the MD sequence personal name index.

There are two sets of indexes to miscellaneous documents (hence MD) because of developments in the care of manuscripts over the years. originally individual items or small accessions were treated as though they were books and stood upright on the shelves, between boards if necessary, in three size sequences (A, B and C). When the first professional archivist was appointed the system was changed so that they could be laid flat in folders in boxes. Both indexes usually need to be consulted as the division between them depends on the date of accession to the archives and not on the age of the document itself.

The Manuscript sequence also has drawers for individuals and document authors which supplement the genealogical section. Try T for trade and industry, which is indexed by both trade and personal name, as well, perhaps.

Larger accessions of archives are usually described in lists although they may have card indexes in addition. The aim of a list is to reproduce the original working order of the papers, so far as is possible, so that they can be understood in the context in which they were created and used. A single letter means much more when put with the rest of the correspondence for instance. The lists of archives are kept in a binder on the top of the card catalogues and they include a wide range of records. The Methodist papers contain very few registers but see Mrs. Lewthwaite's article in vol. X no. 4 for some ideas while if one of your ancestors was in the Royal Manx Fencibles they may be in the Fencibles records held in the Library.

The Atholl Papers and some of the later Government Office Papers have card indexes. if your great-grandfather had anything to do with Authority around 1870s as a policeman or a prisoner, a cholera victim or a Captain of the Parish, try the Government Office Papers index.

Our photograph collection provides another excuse for spending an hour away from the screens. The photographs can be approached from the list of files kept at the counter and useful if you want to see a particular area or, more precisely, through the indexes. There is a separate personal name index. If copyright regulations permit it we can provide photocopies or photographic copies if your search proves successful.

The first set of Ordnance Survey 25" maps, surveyed around 1869, gives alternative images - the scale is large enough for individual buildings to be shown clearly and a copy of the relevant area would make an interesting addition to 1871 census details. For Douglas and Ramsey there is also a set of 50" maps for the same date. They are contemporary with Wood's Atlas and Gazetteer which lists proprietors of land. Other plans and maps, earlier and more recent, can be found in the maps and plans index.

Finally, back to the microfilms for the early newspapers. The later newspaper index, from 1957 to the present, does include items of historical interest, of course, but the earlier one is more likely to repay Investigation. From 1793 to the 1840s the newspapers have been exhaustively indexed, with cross references, and even brief mentions of people can be retrieved via the name index. However it may be worth exploring some of the subject entries to get a flavour of the period. Domestic includes a section on prices, for example (Scotch salmon was 1/- per pound in 1825), while Entertainment provides a reference to Mr. Williamson's Company presenting 'The Haunted Tower' on 24th March 1794. Often the index entry gives sufficient information and there is no need to get the microfilm of the newspaper out.

As this has been an introduction to some of the indexes in the Manx Museum Library some extremely important series of records have not been mentioned, including some of great potential value to genealogists. Anyone needing a fuller idea of the sources available should consult Janet Narasimham's The Manx Family Tree. I hope, however, that I have alerted some more family historians to the breadth of the material in the Library. A word of warning, though; the more documents are consulted the nearer the top of the microfilming list they are likely to go.

Miriam Critchlow



For years I wanted to find out my Curphey ancestors but didn't know how to start until about 4 years ago when a friend took me to the Museum Library and of course I was hooked. I already knew quite a lot about my mother's families - the Magees and Greys from Ireland but my father barely knew his father and his grandparents died when he was very small so he had few stories to pass on. He could only give me 3 clues:-
that the Curpheys were Vicars General
that a Curphey was hung for sheep stealing
and that the family came from the north of the Island
I find that the Vicars General were Ballakillingan Curpheys from Lezayre and there seems to be no connection at all with my family. I haven't got round to criminals so don't know about the sheep stealing but I wouldn't mind having a bit of scandal to talk about. However I fairly quickly traced my line back to Lezayre. I did get worried when a cousin told me she always understood that they were from Ballasalla. Anyway I have solved that mix up as I'll explain later.

My father is Robert Curphey and this name crops up frequently among my ancestors which has often proved to a nuisance trying to sort out who was who. So I'm going to briefly trace my tree through the Robert Curpheys and to do this I've divided it into three sections.

The first one shows the Curpheys of the Carrick in Sulby. It gradually became known as Ballakerka and the ruined farmhouse stands by the footpath which runs from Sulby Claddagh to Sulby Glen. I haven't actually proved the link between this tree and mine but there are some good indications and Nigel Crowe thinks it's right so that is good enough until I prove differently.

The first Robert I know of died in 1639 aged 96 according to his gravestone. I found this hard to believe but later generations did live to a good age - one descendant (probably his grandson Ewan) lived to 84 and there are several examples of folk dying in their 60's and 70's.
This Ewan had a son Robert but I know nothing about him so have not included him in my list. The important one in this line is Ewan who is the probable link to my line.

My second Robert is the nephew of Robert and Ewan, who inherited the Carrick on the death of his father in 1692. He married Mary Boddagh or Boyd and they had at least six children including my third Robert who was nicknamed Noble. I hope this was because he had performed a praiseworthy deed but somebody might yet tell that it had a totally different meaning. I don't know his wife's name but had an only son Robert who was abroad when Robert Noble died in 1741.

Just digressing for the moment, I was fascinated to find in the wills of Robert and Mary Boyd a grandson called Ferdinando Curphey - the only one in the family with this rather exotic, and improbable name. However, I now think the source was Ferdinando's mother Eliz. Calcott. On the microfiche there are several Ferdinando Calcotts in the south of the Island and someone might be able to tell me more about them. Ferdinando sold the Carrick in 1746 when he was a ship's carpenter in Liverpool. As I said I have not yet proved the link but I am working through Wills at the moment to try to find more about Ewan, brother of John and Robert of the Carrick. I believe he is the father of my fourth Robert Curphey. This Robert's family is difficult to unravel but it appears that his father, Ewan, was a miller at Cornaa and that he was married twice. Robert had 2 full sisters that I know of (Isobel and Mary) 2 half sisters (another Mary and Elizabeth) and 2 half brothers (Edward and Ewan). One of the Marys married another Robert Curphey of Sulby, this one nicknamed Cosh which doesn't sound nearly as commendable as Robert Noble!

In 1724 my Robert bought for £14 a 10 acre croft called Balnaclaughbane at the Dhoor north of Ramsey with his sister Isobel but just over a year later she drowned near the burn-foot of Ramsey trying to save the life of one William Cottier.

A few months later Robert married Ann Goldsmith and they had two children, William and Elizabeth. William was four and Elizabeth one when Robert died. The children were orphaned less than a year later and left under the supervision of various aunts and uncles. Unfortunately Elizabeth died a year after her mother of smallpox.

William, the only survivor married Joney Kinty when he was 31 and the oldest of their five children was my 5th Robert Curphey. After he inherited Balnaclaughbane in 1801 he had to buy back for £120 the mortgage which hid lapsed through debt. He married Ann Knickle who bore him 10 children. I don't know the date of Robert's death but his two oldest sons presumably died because the third son inherited. He was a shoemaker in Jurby and sold the croft for £465 to Mr. Brew to become part of Grest in 1852. So in a hundred and twenty years the value rose from £14 to £465. The 4th son of Robert and Ann Knickle was Thomas the father of my 6th Robert Curphey. Robert's mother was Jane Callow from Lonan, two of his older siblings were baptised in Lezayre, one more probably in England, the next in Lonan then Robert and his three other brother and sisters in Douglas where Thomas settled after the families wanderings. Thomas was a fisherman and I believe he died in 1844 leaving a young family.

Robert would be five at the time and we know that he was brought up by his father's sister Jane who had married a builder Robert Cain and who lived in Ballasalla. This explains the Ballasalla link that you may remember I mentioned at the beginning. The story goes that Robert was well educated with the Cain children but he ran away to sea when he was eighteen. Anyway at the age of 22 he was certainly a fisherman and living with his mother and two of his brothers in Chapel Row Douglas. At this age he married Ann Bridson but she died 18 months later. he obviously didn't grieve long because less than a year afterwards he married Mary Spencer who is reputed to have been descended from p good family from Brassington Hall in Derbyshire.

Robert seems to have been a respected sailor. He raced in the Douglas regattas with considerable success and when the first R.N.L.I. Lifeboat, the Manchester and Salford Sunday Schools, went into service in 1868 he was elected coxswain by the crew. At that time the lifeboat was housed at the Castle Mona and later near the Gaiety. Launching, especially at low tide, was slow and the lifeboat and the lifeboat and its coxswain were often criticised for arriving too late to help ships which were wrecked in the harbour. This was in the days before the breakwater was built. Robert wanted the boathouse to be relocated on the Battery Pier but he resigned in 1872 before this move was accomplished.

This summer I intend to go through newspapers to try to find out more about the nautical background of this interesting character. He later set up a fish retail business in Market Square which was passed on to two of his sons, William and my grandfather, Frank. Another son, another Robert, set up his own fish business in Peel and it was at his home that Robert senior died in 1910 just one month before my father was born in Seneschal Lane.

My father, my 7th Robert Curphey, was the 6th of the seven children born to Frank Curphey and Maggie, nee Stowell, who became a well-known character round the quay. Dad says he hardly knew his father, because he was always either working and he took little notice of the children. Anyway he died when my father was fifteen. I gather that my father was rather spoilt - as well as being next to youngest he was not very healthy but he is now 78 and one of the two children still alive. The family were quite well off but Maggie was known to be very generous and gave away a lot of money.

Dad went to Hanover Street School and then was apprenticed as a garage mechanic before switching to electrical work.

He set up his own electrical business in Buck's Road and although he retired 16 years ago the shop still went under his name until it was sold last month.

Like Roberts 5 and 6 my father married an Ann - Annie Magee from Tromode. I am their only child so unfortunately there will not be an eighth Robert Curphey in my family tree.

By Pat Nicholson



There was always the village shop but by today's standards some of the food delivered to the door would be considered most unhygenic.

The first job of the morning was to get the milk jugs ready, quart, pint and small jugs, of cream were ordered. They had to have clean tops fro net covers with beads to saucers to keep the milk clean. Then they were placed ready on the coolest outside windowsill to await the milk - warm from the cow. Often there was a cat sitting waiting, having discovered how to dislodge the top. The milkman sometimes came by horse drawn cart which carried the large churns with which he dipped his measures. Yet, before the war when a dairy was started up in the village, most of the milk was sold in cartons from h pint size upwards, while today we still tend to discuss the merits of bottles versus cartons.

Meat also arrived by horse and cart. Sometimes if ordered it would be wrapped. Otherwise the cloths covering the ineat were opened up to show the carcase and decide the joint. Then the butcher set to work cutting up on his board across the back of the cart.

In summer time fish or more usually herring carts came from Peel. It always seemed all right but although fresh from the boats, it must have been on the road a few hours before it arrived at Union Mills.

During illness a considerate doctor took the prescriptions, after visiting patients, to a chemist near the bus station to be made up and put on the bus, which the conductor delivered to the house if on the bus route or sometimes left at the shop. Other parcels were delivered, some by train, to be collected at the station. The cost of this service was a single passenger fare.

We also had music from time to time. There was the man with the hurdy-gurdy pulled by a pony - perhaps a little less musical "Kate and John" as we always called them - he played the accordian and she collected. The former collected with a tamborine and I used to love to drop pennies into it as he shook it and jingled another tune.

Elinor Comaish


It is very appropriate that Elinor should choose to write about shopping in Union Mills, as her grandfather was Samuel Green, he and his wife Agnes kept the village shop in Union Mills for many years.

It is to Samuel that we owe a debt of thanks as he was a keen photographer and photographed many scenes in the village and then had them made into postcards for sale at his shop, because of this I have been able to obtain copies for many members who had ancestors who came from the village.

The photograph of the village shop on the other page was taken by him about 1915/16 and shows a typical village scene.




The velvet hills are amber tinted still,
Or veiled in mist at stern Manannan's will,
And streams sing softly through each glen and gill
on mona's isle.

The gorse like cloth of gold, and fuchsias red,
Still glow from Calf of Man to Jurby Head,
And curlews call from moor and river bed
On Mona's isle.

The meadowsweet still billows in the breeze,
The heather drowses 'mid the hum of bees,
And sunshine casts a dappled light through trees
On Mona's isle.

Around the cliffs as in the days of yore,
The puffins play and %,heeling seagulls soar,
And dancing waves still kiss the fairy shore
On Mona's isle.

0 exiled hearts, 'tis still the same dear sod;
The same warm welcome waits, and paths you trod
Through well-loved haunts unchanged, thank God!
On Mona's isle.

by Kathleen Faragher




The quarterland Staward, formerly known as Ballabroole, has been in the ownership of only four different families since it was first recorded on the Manorial Roll of 1515. In that year, Gilchrist McKerd (Christopher Garrett) was entered for the second quarter in the Treen of Alia Sulby, Ballabrooie being the farm of the river-bank or broogh. The name remained on the Roll until 1600, to be followed by a series of John Garretts, with one Philip, until this family's ownership of the farm ended in 1806. Most of the Garrett owners of Ballabrooie were also Captains of Sulby, a district important enough to have its own Captain, in addition to the Captain of the whole of Lezayre parish. Thus pre-eminent in Sulby, the Garretts made marriage alliances with other prominent Manx families, such as Christian, Milntown, Curghy, Ballakillinghan and Wattleworth, as well as with landed proprietors from the North of England, such as Heywood and Sutcliffe. Some of these English connections together with the family's coat of arms, are commemorated on two brass tablets in the present Lezayre Church, formerly in the old Parish Church. The first of these reads:

Here lyeth inter's the body of Mrs Margaret, daughter to Peter Heywood, of Heywood, in countie of Lancaster, Esq. by his wife Alice, daughter of John Greenhalgh, of Brandelsom, in the same countie, Esq., and Governor of this Isle of Man many yeares. She was wife to Captain John Carrett of Sulby, and had issued by him one sone and three daughters, viz., John, Mary, Alice, and Elizabeth, and dyed the 16th of January, and buryed ye 19th, Anno Dom. 1669.

In the third generation of the Garretts after Margaret Heywood, the heir John (1709-1758) had eleven brothers and sisters, with, in time, nine children in his own two marriages. Although it is many years since the family lived in Ballabrooie, there is a strong possibility of the existence of descendants bearing the surname Garrett.

Unlike most Manx farmers, the Garretts also had an English estate, Spotland in Rochdale, Lancashire, and this was the place of residence of Philip (1733-1790), one of the last of the Ballabrooie line. Philip died in Manchester and was buried in Rochdale, and several years passed before his Manx Will was discovered and his estate wound up. By this time, several mortgages had been raised on Ballabrooie, heralding the alienation of the farm from its old owners. This took place in 1806, following the early death of John Garrett, nephew of Philip, and eldest son of William, a merchant in Douglas. While Ballabrooie became a Bacon property andreceived the name Staward from the family's original seat in Northumberland, the last John Garrett of Ballabrooie's younger brother Philip inherited the Rochdale land (including a brewery). One of this Philip's'descendants, John Garrett, was living near Wigan in 1877.

John Joseph Bacon (1728-1809). the Douglas merchant and shipowner who had advanced two mortgages on Ballabrooie before finally taking possession, was the only child of Joseph Bacon and his wife Elizabeth Christian, a member of the Milntown family. In spite of their English connections, most of the Garretts had lived at Ballabrooie, but J.J. Bacon and his descendants were non-resident proprietors, while always preserving a keen interest in Sulby and its affairs. The farm Ballavilley (later Seafield, now Arragon) in Santon came into the family through J.J. Bacon's second marriage to the heiress Ann Cosnahan. Captain Caesar Bacon (1791-1876), who fought at Waterloo, was the only surviving son of both his father's marriages. He himself married Frances, daughter of Governor Cornelius Smelt, and lived at Seafield, as did two further generations of Bacons before the male line came to an end in 1916. Because of earlier associations with Douglas, many of the family are buried in their vault at Onchan.

The acreage of Staward was extended by purchases in the quarterlands to the Wests the Clenagh and Cooilbane, and farm buildings were erected bearing the family's coat of arms (a boar). In 1838, Captain Bacon gave land, part of Staward, for a church and school for Sulby, on condition that he and his family should have a private entrance to the church from Staward, with a pew as big as the Ballakillinghan pew in Lezayre parish church; another pew was to be provided for the tenant of Staward. While two small brass plates bearing the name "Staward" adorn two pew-ends to this day, both pews are now of the standard size.

Resident ownership returned to the farm after 1916 with the coming of the Fayles, formerly in Loughan y Yeigh; in recent years the deaths of several unmarried sons of the purchaser Robert Fayle made it clear that Staward would again change hands. This time, it has become part of a very large holding comprising several neighbouring quarterlands, all owned by a new resident.

For a number of years past, it was been the Northern venue for the Royal Agricultural Show. Perhaps when some of you visit the Show, or travel along the Sulby St raight past St. Stephen's Church and its Church Hall, and the housing estate bearing the restored name "Ballabrooie", you will spare a thought for the interesting and distinguished people whose lives have been associated with Staward.

Constance Radcliffe

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