More relatives . . . or probably not

After North Street, I Left Leeds and drove the half-hour trip toYork– a smaller and much more attractive city, though not without its own traffic problems. I had no family history to draw me toYork, but I had planned to meet Penelope (Sasha’s partner) there. She was spending a few days touring in Britain after attending a conference, and our paths were scheduled to cross here. We spent a pleasant day as tourists, visiting the Minster and many other attractions. But before Penelope arrived, I discovered that the Yorkshire Family History Society was holding its annual fair – on the very day I was inYork. I had to attend.

I was completely astonished at the scale of the genealogy industry that the fair revealed. There were well over a hundred stalls, offering antiquarian books, CDs of local census data and parish records, special notebooks for recording family history research data, genealogy software, and much more. Some people there had been researching their families for most of their lives: it’s obviously a dangerously obsessive hobby!

Apart from finding out about one’s relatives in the reasonably recent past (as I had been doing), there are people whose ambition is simply to trace their direct ancestors back as far as they can: to William the Conqueror if possible. Others collect as many relatives as possible, however distant, building up databases of many thousand names.

The other temptation is to find a connection with somebody famous – or better still, wealthy. Although Philip Case of Kings Lynn seems to have been the closest brush with wealth and title in the family, I learnt from some of my father’s papers that his eldest brother THT Case had a theory that he could lay claim to “the baronetcy of Mallet and Scales” presumably through Philip Mallet Case, whose daughters apparently failed to inherit his mansion. A faint hope I suspect, even for such a lawyer as THT Case was.

Whilst laying imagined relatives to rest, I am also certain that despite the number of churchmen in the family, our Longleys are unrelated to Archbishop Charles Thomas Longley of the late 1800s.

With my interest in cinema, and film technology, I was intrigued to learn some years ago that the often neglected pioneer of cinematography Augustin Le Prince lived and worked in Leeds, and his assistant was a mechanic named James William Longley. They built the very first cine camera, which still exists, as does their brief film (of traffic on Leeds Bridge). Although their workshop was in the same street (Woodhouse Lane) that some of our Longleys lived in some years earlier, I am quite sure that James was no more than a very distant relation.

As it happens, the man whose invention made it possible to record sound on film was an American called Theodore Case. Any connection there would have to go back to the mid 1500s, and probably too hard to trace reliably. A shame though: it would have made a nice double.

Still there is plenty to learn and find out about real relatives. It was a fascinating tour – and the research it led me on to is already giving me some questions to ask on my next visit!

August 2009 (uploaded and slightly updated 2012)


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Stella Herbert on August 21, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    Just come across your blog. Very interesting. I am descended from Daniel Burslem & his wife Esther Case through their son Thomas, vicar of the Rudhams & Dan Burslem’s grandson also Daniel.
    Esther is my 6x gt. grandma.
    So what sort of cousins does that make us?!!
    Regards & would love to hear from you.


    • Ha! Esther Case’s parents Thomas and Hester (nee Freeman) were my 5xG’grandparents, through her older brother Thomas (not very imaginative with names were they!). From Thomas Case downwards I’m descended from the youngest son of large families in almost every generation, which makes for fewer generations between then and now. I think we would be 5th cousins twice removed.


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