We started researching our family trees back around 1980, a time when research meant getting off your backside and visiting record offices in person and wading through reel after reel of microfilm.

We are both researching our own families so there are sections for myself and for Ruth.

There is an additional section called The Penders to whom I have a connection.

If you are just here looking for data on any of the family names, then the best place to look are the Family Trees
Dave’s Tree for : Boulton, Braham, Carney, Simpson
Ruth’s Tree for: Hartley, Masser, Queen, Vernon

Dave’s Families

The Braham side of my tree is by far the most interesting – apologies to my AgLab ancestors on the other branches.

As a child I was told that my ancestors were involved with the circus and animals. As an adult, having seen no evidence of this, I discarded it as a story told to children. But when I started to research the family tree the truth started to out.

One of the other things that were mentioned was that the name had been changed to Braham from Abraham.

Working backwards I found that the Brahams had been fairground travellers with a variety of acts over the years, and indeed at one point had their own menagerie.

They settled down in the first half of the 20th century.

Trying to track travelling fairground families through the census was a nightmare.

This was pre-Ancestry etc. when you had to use microfilm. Absolutely no chance!

The name change was also an issue because not only had they changed the surname from Abraham to Braham, they had also changed forenames. Sydney Braham had been Simeon Abraham, Selina became Sarah.  Also, when my Great Great Grandfather married, he anglicised his mother’s name. She was Hannah Braham, known as Annie. He gave her maiden surname as Stevens.

Working back I connected them to the Jacobs family of glassmakers from London. www.jacobstree.co.uk.

The Abrahams were from Liverpool but had moved there from Plymouth in the early part of the 19th century.

A fascinating family to research, although the fact that up until the mid 19th century, they were Jewish, causes problems with finding records for the early years.

The Braham and Mackney families joined up in 1894 when Arthur Henry Braham married Sarah Ann Mackney.

The Boultons were from Cumberland and were largely farming folk, generally as Ag Labs (Agricultural Labourers).

The Carneys came to England from Ireland sometime before 1861 when John Carney was born in Manchester.

Unfortunately I have not been able to trace their origins to any particular part of Ireland.

John Carney (b. 1861) married into another Irish family, the Guinnanes, in 1891.

The Guinnanes were originally from Limerick.

The Simpsons are firmly rooted in Lancashire, especially around the Furness Peninsula.

Tracing my ancestors back has proved problematic as my 2x Great Grandfather, John Simpson (b. 1851) was illegitimate. This means that from that point I can only continue back along his maternal line.

They were mainly employed in the local Iron and Steel industries.

The Mackneys are perhaps best known for their three generations as fairground travellers. However, that doesn’t really tell us much about them as it is a generic term to describe any of the multitude of different acts that appeared, and still do appear, at travelling fairs.

The Mackney family often travelled in separate family groups and probably weren’t all in the same place very often.

As far as the fairground part of the family is concerned, the founder was Thomas Mackney. He is originally a wood turner (up to at least his marriage in 186), but by 1871 he is a clown.

It was probably shortly after marrying Margaret Lomas that he changed profession as Margaret was already a seasoned traveller. Her father was as Showman at least as far back as 1861.

The basic staple of the Mackneys was the performing of plays. The plays would be performed by family members. This form of entertainment was very popular at the time and had the advantage of being able to retain the same programme as they moved around the country.

They initially had strong connections with the Manchester area but in later years the focus changed to the North East.

Most of their touring appears to have covered the North of England but also much of Scotland.

From about 1895 the family business was more focussed on The Ghost Show or Ghost Pavilion.

The Ghost show was popularised by John Henry Pepper in about 1862 and is generally referred to as Pepper’s Ghost. It is basically a case of ‘smoke and mirrors’.  The Mackneys acting skills could be put to good use here.

Simply put, there are 2 rooms (the main stage plus another space, either to the side or below) The ‘real actors’ performed on the stage and the ‘ghost’ acted in the second room. The image of the ghost was projected onto a sheet of glass that was positioned between the stage and the audience this making it look as though the ghost was amongst the actors.

See this website for an explanation: https://www.comsol.com/blogs/explaining-the-peppers-ghost-illusion-with-ray-optics/

They also showed films as many places still didn’t have cinemas.

The Mackneys continued travelling with one form of act or another until at least 1911 and probably for a while after although things were starting to change and more and more cinemas were appearing in towns.

The name Mackney is also of interest, as it wasn’t original their real name.

In 1825 James McNair a bricklayer from Scotland, married Mary Wilton. They went on to have 7 children between 1827 and 1837. Mary died in 1838 leaving James with 3 children (aged 11, 9 and 4) to bring up.

In steps Mary’s sister, Hannah.

In the 1841 Hannah is listed as McNair but I can find no evidence of them getting married. James and Hannah have two children (Thomas and Elijah).

In 1851 Hannah is still living with James but she is now listed as Hannah Wilton, Sister-in-law.

James McNair dies in 1860 and in 1861 we find Hannah and her two sons living together as Wilton although the boys have McN as a middle name.

The ‘Mackney’ first appears in 1863 when Thomas marries Margaret Lomas as Thomas Mackney Wilton. He lists his father as James Wilton.

Thomas’ brother remains Wilton all his life.

Thomas and Margaret go on to have 14 children.

Some are born as Wilton and some as Mackney and some as Mackney-Wilton.

The Braham and Mackney families joined up in 1894 when Arthur Henry Braham married Sarah Ann Mackney.

All in all an interesting family.

Ruth’s Families

Hartley is, unfortunately, a very common surname in Lancashire.  The earliest members in my tree are John Hartley and Hannah nee Holt who were married in Rochdale in 1775.  Their son Samuel and his wife Alice (also nee Holt) moved to Bury between 1835 and 1838.  He was a Weaver and later a Carter.
John Edward Pilkington Hartley married Sarah Jane Duckett who was born in Ironbridge.  Going back a few generations from Sarah Jane to my 4 x great grandparents, Thomas Potts and James Lloyd, would have been living in Broseley when the Ironbridge was built.
Some other surnames associated with the Hartley side of the family:
Duckett, Potts, Lloyd, Pilkington, Isherwood.

The family were originally from Selby in Yorkshire, they were Cordwainers (http://cordwainers.org/).

The earliest member of the family identified so far is William Masser.

William was baptised in 1670 in Selby Abbey and died in 1723, his gravestone can be found in the floor inside Selby Abbey.

William had 10 children by two wives.  The next two generations remained in Selby as Cordwainers but, sometime before he married in 1816, Thomas, born 1779, moved to Holcombe, near Bury in Lancashire, where he continued to be a cordwainer/shoemaker.  As far as is known at present, Thomas was the last in the family to work as a cordwainer.  Only one of his sons survived to adulthood but he worked as a Calico Block printer.

Some of the Parish Registers for Selby Abbey used the Dade method of entering the event which gave very detailed information often including not only parent’s names but also grandparent’s names and occupations.

Some other surnames associated with the Masser side of the family:

Tarbottom, Arundale/Arundel, Stobbart, Yates, Dunn, Yoxall

This side of the family originated in Ireland but moved to Scotland before the 1861 census.  They may have even been in Scotland before the 1851 census but this has not yet been proven.

The Irish Potato Famine was from 1845 to 1852 so that is likely why they moved to Scotland

In some documents they are entered as Quinn instead of Queen.  As, in the early days,  they would not have been able to read or write it probably depended on how strong their Irish accent was as to how it was written down.

They probably moved to Bury, Lancashire between March 1883 and November 1884.

Some other surnames associated with the Queen side of the family:

Gallagher, Rice, Rodgers, Ewing, Nisbet.

This is my main family name but it has given me the biggest problem.  They came from Scotland. There is a family story about a son marrying a servant girl and being in the army and him and his wife being killed in India around the time of the Indian Mutiny and leaving an orphaned son.  I have so far not been able to prove any of that.  Was it true or was it a story made up.  The son ended up in Lancashire.  His name was George Douglas Vernon and his marriage certificate gives his father as George Vernon, Officer in the Army but is that his original name or is it his adopted parent’s surname?

Some other surnames associated with the Vernon side of the family:

Hill, Ainslie, Jack

The Penders

The Penders were a troupe of stilt walkers, acrobats and  comedians who were very popular in the first quarter of the 20th century.
It was with this troupe that Cary Grant (then Archibald Leach) started his career.

The main member was Robert Lomas aka Bob Pender who lead the troupe in its various incarnations for many years.

Select ‘The Penders’ from the main menu to find out more.

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