Samuel Downing: Man Overboard!

For a long time I believed that Samuel Downing, the first son of Southminster patriach Joseph Downing, had died in infancy.  It seemed the logical conclusion - there was no sign of him in any of the Southminster records or anywhere else in England for that matter and the parish register from the relevant years that would show his burial had been destroyed.  His mother and sister had also disappeared in this period, and his mother was clearly dead, as Joseph had remarried and described himself as a widower.Read more...

Joseph and Hannah Downing: The Oldest Couple in Essex

My grandfather, Aubrey Downing, passed away last year at the grand old age of ninety-six, and I had the privilege of giving the eulogy at his funeral.  Of course, I just had to sneak a bit of family history into it by telling the congregation that it was no surprise to me that my grandfather had lived so long - he came from a long line of long-lived Downings.   The average life expectancy for a man born in the 1700s was about 35.  Our three Downing ancestors born in that century far exceeded that.   John Downing  (my 5th gg) lived to 88, Joseph Downing (my 6th gg)  lived to 77, and Samuel Downing (my 7th gg) lived to 73.  However, Joseph Downing junior (my 4th gg) took it a step further and made headlines with his old age. Read more...

Joseph Downing: How My Family Came To Essex

My majority of my research has centred on my mother's family, the Downings, who lived in Southminster, Deepest Essex (and later Southend-on-Sea).  This lively family were always up to mischief and rarely off the pages of the Chelmsford Chronicle.  But I knew they weren't always from Southminster.  Every Downing that I had researched was descended from the same man, Joseph Downing.  According to his burial record, Joseph was 77 when he died in 1819, meaning he had been born around 1742.  But there was no baptism for Joseph in Southminster, or indeed of any other Downings prior to him.  Where did he come from, and why?

Passchendaele100

My great grandfather, Frederick Allen Downing, survived the Battle of Passchendaele. Half a million soldiers, mostly from Great Britain, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, did not.  I joined Guided Battlefield Tours for their Passchendale Centenary Tour and went to pay my respects to his fallen comrades.  If Frederick had never returned home, my grandfather … Continue reading Passchendaele100

Henry Downing: the effect on a young family of the death of a parent

Henry Downing, 1847-1898 Painter and Decorator of Southend-on-Sea, Essex, and my great great great grandfather In the 19th century,  the death of a parent could spell financial disaster for a previously comfortably-off family, like the Downings.  Families needed a father to bring in money, and a mother to look after the home and children.  A … Continue reading Henry Downing: the effect on a young family of the death of a parent

Frederick Allen Downing: finding the father of an illegitimate child

Frederick was an obvious choice for a starting point for this blog.  His parentage was the biggest mystery in my family tree, and at one point, I thought it an unsolvable mystery.  It turned out the answer was staring me in the face all along. Read more...