Brick wall is gone

Following the information that has allowed me to identify my grandfather Henry Hedges and his parents, my brick wall has now disappeared. I’m sure there will be many moments ahead that will seem just as difficult, but for the moment, its plain sailing.

I have renamed the ‘My Brick Wall’ page on my site to ‘Henry Hedges’ and created a redirect to catch any links to the old page.

For anyone interested in the technical, I have added the following to my .htaccess file:

redirect 301 /my_brick_wall.htm
redirect 301 /crown_agents.htm
redirect 301 /northern_provinces_news.htm
RedirectMatch 301 ^/my-brick-wall/(.*)$$1

The first 3 lines are to catch any really old links to my original site. The next line redirects any page in the my-brick-wall set of pages to the corresponding henry-hedges page.

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M.V. Accra

I decided to start a section on my website about the ships and shipping line that Henry Hedges travelled to Africa on. A couple of days ago, I bought a postcard on Ebay of M.V. (Motor Vessel) Accra, which he travelled to Nigeria on twice in the mid 1930’s. Well at least I thought I had!

The M.V. Accra that Henry travelled on was the second ship of that name, launched in 1926 and owned by the British & African Steam Navigation Co. Ltd., later Elder Dempster Lines Ltd. She was 9337 gross tons, 450.8 feet in length and registered in Liverpool. She had accommodation for 243 first class and 76 second class passengers. She was later torpedoed and sunk on 26th July 1940.

After looking closer at the postcard, which I should have done before I bought it, it is of the third M.V. Accra, which entered service in 1947.

As I said earlier, Henry travelled to Nigeria twice on the M.V. Accra.

  • 6th April 1932. Travelled on ship MV Accra of the Elder Dempster Lines under master J.C. Shooter from Liverpool to Lagos, Nigeria. He travelled 1st Class. His address in the United Kingdom was 243 Giston Lane, Aston W4. He was age 34 and his occupation was a printer.
  • 4th April 1934. Travelled on ship MV Accra of the Elder Dempster Lines under master J.C. Shooter from Liverpool to Lagos, Nigeria. He travelled 1st Class. His address in the United Kingdom was Long Marston, Tring. He was age 37 and his occupation was a printer. He is travelling this time with Lillian age 26. This must be their honeymoon as they were married on the 1st April 1934.

So, its back to searching for the correct ship images as I work on the new page.

Posted in elder dempster, hedges, website | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

Henry’s Birth Certificate arrived

It’s been a very long week since I applied for a copy of Henry Hedges’ birth certificate.

It finally arrived today and was waiting for me when I got home. I nearly missed it; previously when I had sent for certificates, they had arrived folded up in a thin brown envelope. This one was in a white A5 window envelope. I can’t remember if I have ordered directly from the General Register Office before, it might have only been county register offices. It was a surprise to find when looking at the certificate to see that they print the scanned record from the register instead of just transcribing it. I don’t know if they have been doing this long, but I may now replace some of my older transcribed copy certificates.

Anyway, on to the contents of the certificate. Yes, it’s him! Born on the 17th February 1897 at 7:45pm at 101 Portman Buildings. This is the same address that Henry Hedges age 4, son of Henry and Louisa was living at in the 1901 Census. From the certificate, his father is Henry Hedges, which I already knew, a railway carriage gasman, which I suspected and his mother is Louisa Hedges formerly Copp, which I also suspected. His father Henry registered the birth on 20th February 1897.

I finally get to combine the two Henry Hedges in my family tree; the first Henry Hedges[P16], my grandfather and the second Henry Hedges[P408], son of Henry and Louisa. It has been a long time, but I think I can safely say, my grandfather is no longer my family tree brick wall. It just remains to continue investigating his parents and their line.

All of this was possible because of the suggestion by the company secretary of Crown Agents who suggested that I contact the Pensions Department at the Department for International Development and provided me with the contact details. I am very grateful to her for the time she gave to my enquiry.

I’ve just realised I also get to combine Henry’s parents in my tree as well.

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Continuing the battle with phpGedView

I still haven’t got to the bottom of the problem with the statistics module on phpGedView, so have settled with turning the earliest/latest birth/death year off. I have got a theme that I’m quite happy with, it uses the same header from my blogs and a similar colour scheme.

I have found another thing that doesn’t work for me with the latest phpGedView, RSS feeds. When you try to look at the RSS feed, you get the following message on screen:

Fatal error: Cannot instantiate non-existent class: stats in /path to phpgedview on your host/phpGedView/includes/functions_rss.php on line 166

I have searched the forums and again found nothing. I googled it, and like the last problem with the statistics module errors, the only hits were sites with the same problem. Like the last problem, I’ve concluded I don’t need this functionality, so have turned off RSS feeds; problem not solved, but avoided.

Looking at the Place Hierachy list that the software provides, has allowed me to sort out my assortment of locations. For example, sometimes I had put the location of Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, England as Moreton, Morton in marsh, Morten-In-Marsh, Glos etc. It took a while to go through and correct them, but it was worthwhile.

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Current version of phpGedView

I have been using phpGedView to provide some family members who are interested with access to my full family tree data. It has not been without incidents, a couple of years ago, a security flaw in it allowed my website to be hacked and defaced. This was not as bad as it seemed, because it allowed me to reorganise my website, splitting the different areas into their own sub domains. My family tree site became and the on-line database became The theory behind this was that a vulnerability in one piece of software was less likely to impact the whole site again.

Anyway, back to phpGedView, the version I am running is quite old (but patched for security). When I first started using phpGedView, I didn’t have hosting with a database, so I had to configure the software to use index files. The later version, 4.x, no longer supported index files and required a database, so I was unable to upgrade when it was released. Although I have had hosting with database access for about 10 months, I had never revisited this option, content to leave it as it was.

Yesterday, I set up a new domain and configured the new version (4.1.5) to test it out. Installation was straight forward. I did configure the index and GEDCOM files outside of the navigable folder structure for security. After uploading my sanitised GEDCOM file and configuring the options, everything seemed to be going well. However, when I went to the welcome page along with the expected blocks of data, I had 8 error messages above the GEDCOM statistics module.

One of the errors was, the others looked similar:

ERROR:-2 DB Error: syntax error SQL: SELECT d2.d_year, d2.d_type, d2.d_fact, d2.d_gid FROM pgv2_dates AS d2 WHERE d2.d_file=1 AND d2.d_fact IN (‘BIRT’, ‘CHR’, ‘BAPM’) AND d2.d_julianday1=( SELECT MIN(d1.d_julianday1) FROM pgv2_dates AS d1 WHERE d1.d_file=1 AND d1.d_fact IN (‘BIRT’, ‘CHR’, ‘BAPM’) AND d1.d_julianday1!=0 ) ORDER BY d_julianday1 ASC, d_type; [nativecode=1064 ** You have an error in your SQL syntax. Check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near ‘SELECT MIN(d1.d_julianday1) FROM pgv2_dates AS d1 WHERE d1.d_fi]

I tried searching the phpGedView support forums, but the results were less than conclusive. Suggestions to update the version of MySQL were provided to some people asking about the error. This isn’t an option to me, I get what my hosting provider gives me, MySQL 4.0.27, which according to the requirements is sufficient. I met the other requirements too, so I had to take a different approach.

I started modifying the welcome page, turning off each module in turn until I identified which one was causing the problem. It turns out it was the GEDCOM statistics module. Now, this was still displaying underneath the errors, so I took a closer look at the data displayed. There are 4 fields for earliest and latest birth and death dates which didn’t contain any data, all the other fields displayed data. So, I customised the module and turned these fields off and the errors disappeared. Each field added 2 of the 8 errors. Looking closer the first 4 contained ‘BIRT’, ‘CHR’, ‘BAPM’ and the last 4 contained ‘DEAT’, ‘BURI’, ‘CREM’, so that made sense.

I began to wonder if I had some invalid data in the GEDCOM file that was causing the problem, so I used the built in GEDCOM checker in phpGedView to check my uploaded file. I did come across some date fields where I had entered a text comment instead of a date. These were for death dates where, in one case, I knew it occurred between a couple of years, and the other I had the day and month, but not the year. I found one in the death indexes and was able to correct this, but couldn’t find the other so had to estimate it, leaving the information I had as a source. After fixing several other missing source details, I recreated the GEDCOM file and used ResPrivita to sanitise it for living people.

Unfortunately, this didn’t resolve the errors with the birth/death dates, so I have left them turned off at the moment.

I still have to recreate the users/passwords for access to the data, upload and secure the unsanitised data, create a custom theme similar to my exisiting website, and let the user know its all changing, so its a way off of release yet.

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Progress with Henry Hedges

Since finding out Henry’s date of birth, I haven’t had a chance to do anything with it until today.

I have applied online at the General Register Office for a copy of the birth certificate of Henry Hedges, registered in Marylebone in Jan-Feb-Mar 1897. This is the Henry Hedges that I already believed to be my grandfather, and the registration quarter is correct. Hopefully it will be the correct date of birth and then I’ll have confirmation that the Marylebone family in 1901 is mine.

On the assumption that it is, I revisited old ground this afternoon and found entries on the same page of the Marylebone marriage index for Henry Hedges and Louisa Copp in 1894. This, if I’m correct, would be my grandfather’s father Henry (that gets confusing at times), and mother Louisa. In 1891, there is a Louisa Copp as a servant for Eliza Hedges, a 58 year old widow in Hampstead (RG12/112 Folio 11 Pg 16). This could be my brick wall coming down.

In 1881, I had trouble finding Eliza Hedges, who would have been 48. Then I came across Eliza Hodges, 47, widow from London in Marylebone (RG11/159 Folio 53 Pg 26). With her were Henry Hodges aged 14 from Marylebone (right age and birthplace) and Anne Eliza Hodges aged 11.

Here’s where my trail goes cold. Try as I can, I cannot find Eliza and Henry in the 1871 census.

I have contacted Sue Hedges at The Hedges-Study, to see if she has anything in her database that might help me. Sue was very helpfull about six years ago, when she put me on the right tracks for getting hold of Henry’s will.

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My Brick Wall is crumbling

Before I went on holiday, I emailed the Department for International Development, Pensions Department to see if they had any records for Henry Hedges’ pension or service. I had an email waiting for me when I checked tonight that has knocked a few bricks out of my brick wall, so much so I think I can see it falling down soon.

Unfortunately, we have been unable to trace any files containing your grandfather’s records in this office.

I should explain that generally if no action has been taken on a file of a deceased officer, or their dependents, for 6 years after their death the file is destroyed under statute.

The only record we have been able to find relating to your grandfather is an index card noting that Mr Hedges’ wife died on 11 May 1972 and that, as there are no further eligible beneficiaries under the widows’ and orphans’ pension scheme/fund to which he contributed, interest in them has been lapsed. As noting Mrs Hedges death, and the resulting lapse, is probably the last action taken it seems likely that the files have been destroyed several years ago.

The only other information this index card shows is very similar to what you have already stated in your email:

  • That Henry Hedges, born 17 February 1897, was a Superintendent of the Government Press in Nigeria and later a Government Printer in Sierra Leone.
  • That he joined the Nigeria Widows and Orphans Pension Scheme i.e. started contributing to it, on 11 October 1922 (the date of joining such a scheme is usually the date the officer’s appointment in the territory started).
  • Subsequently, he joined the Sierra Leone Widows’ and Orphans’ Pensions Fund on 14 January 1939 (most likely his date of transfer to his appointment in Sierra Leone).
  • His contributions ceased on his death on 4 November 1939.

As mentioned above, his wife died on 11 May 1972. (Pensions in respect of Mr Hedges’ contributions to the Nigeria and Sierra Leone Scheme/Fund would have been paid to his widow from 5 November 1939 until her death).

I finally have an actual date of birth for Henry! This means I can confirm Henry’s parents and at last know which Hedges family is really mine. To say I am overjoyed is understating it.

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Not found at Crown Agents

A couple of days ago, I emailed Crown Agents, asking if they had any details of my grandfather, Henry Hedges, who had worked for them in Nigera and Sierra Leone.

I had a nice email back today from the company secretary of Crown Agents.

Whilst we may have recruited Mr. Hedges, this would have been on behalf of the respective colonial administrations at the time and he would not have been an employee of Crown Agents, but of the administrations in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. We would not therefore hold any of his records and indeed our records of such recruitment exercises have long been destroyed. I have searched through our Colonial Office staff lists for the periods in question but unfortunately your grandfather’s name does not appear (this may be due to the fact that the staff lists generally relate to the more senior colonial administrators of the day).

She went on to suggest that as there was a pension involved it might be worth contacting the Department for International Development Pensions Department to see if they had details of his posting on their files.

So, I wasn’t in luck from the point of finding him, but I do have another possible lead to follow. I really appreciate the time she took to check their records. At least I know there’s nothing there now.

I’ve contacted the Department for International Development, and shall have to hope that they have something on record.

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