Ancestor Seekers of Kenora

Genealogy in the Kenora District of Northwestern Ontario

I'm into my English Nonconformist Records course. This week we're considering the Jewish denomination(!). I've never heard Judaism referred to as anything but a bona fide religion before this course....

My assignment:

If you do not have any Jewish ancestors (yet!) please visit some sites for Jewish genealogy online and give us a report on something that you have learned.

Normally, I wouldn't have any difficulty with that. The problem is, I'm getting distracted.

In my reading today, I discovered that most London Jews are Ashkenazi, that is to say that they were from the Yiddish speaking group of Jews generally from the Russian, Polish and German areas of Europe. That got me thinking about a branch in my family that I am having some real difficulty tracing: the Grunwells. Could Grunwell be an English corruption of a Germanic name? Perhaps a Jewish name?

So, instead of sticking to Jewish research sites, I've started crawling around the Internet looking for clues regarding my Grunwell (Grumwell?) ancestress.

I went back to her will (proven in 1812) with a sort of lateral approach in mind. In it, she mentions two cousins, Ann TOULTON and her brother John GRUMWELL of Witham, Huntingdonshire. Maybe, I think, maybe I can work back from them and find some clue that helps me determine 4g-grandmother Jane's origins.

I'm not entirely unsuccessful, perhaps. I find Ann TOLTON of St. Ives District in the BMD index, death 1845; and John GRUNWELL of Huntingdon District, death 1856. I order both records from the GRO in hope that they will prove the pair to be brother and sister and perhaps yield some other useful data.

Then I start plugging the names into some other search engines. And what do you know but a John GRUNWELL pops up on the British National Archives site! And he's in the right neighbourhood - in a place called Kings Ripton. But the records are not online, and I can't see the whole context of the documents.

Using some of the key words I find there in a Google search, I turn up some references to the Cambridgeshire County Archives, where these records are actually held. But when I click on the link, I get an error message.

I don't see a 'cache' link. I roll my mouse over to see if I can pull up a picture of the page. That works, and at the top of the picture, I see the word 'cache'. Clicking on that takes me into a stored image of the original page viewed at that link. And there, in the full title of the document, I see a vital clue: John is mentioned as a petitioner for two meeting houses, once in 1813 and again in 1834 (The dates fit, too.).

Meeting houses.... That's what the Society of Friends call their Sunday gathering places!

I've just learned that Quakers and Jews were the only two non-Church of England (C of E) religious groups viewed as legitimate by the English government during this period. This means that they could conduct all of their religious rites of passage from their own places of worship and record them in their own registers. These records would be valid and legal proofs of birth, marriage and death. All other denominational groups had to validate these events through the C of E if their children were to be regarded as legitimate and legal heirs.

The Quaker Family History Society (QFHS) website led me to an index of Huntingdonshire Quaker BMD records which I can access through the local Family History Centre (FHC) on microfilm or order in as a CD directly from the QFHS. If I find related names, I can look for the original records either through the FHC or by getting copies from Cambridgeshire!

None of this proves that my Jane was a Quaker, of course. But it may explain why I wasn't finding her in the usual places until she married a non-Quaker.

Ooh! Is that a little mound of red dust I see accumulating at the foot of this brick wall?

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Comment by Becky Johnson on February 23, 2013 at 5:58am

Great story Elizabeth! Good luck with the Grunwell search!

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