An Enumerator and a List of Houses – 1939 Register

As family historians we usually think of the census records and 1939 England and Wales Register as lists of people. However, several censuses and the 1939 register also give us a list of farms and houses – very useful for One-Place Studies and indeed house histories. The 1939 register is an unusual source in that changes have been made at a later date, usually to show a married name, as it was a working document for National Health Service registration. The enumerators varied in their knowledge of the local area and accuracy, so it can be useful to know a little more about them. Accuracy in terms of coverage can be considered by comparing the registers across the years and trying to explain any discrepancies.

1939 Register image accessed ancestry.co.uk July 2022

Sticklepath in 1939 was part of 3 Parishes, this focuses on the Sampford Courtenay enumerator district. The man in charge on 5th October was Ralph Finch (1891-1979).

Ralph the middle of 3 sons to James and Ellen Finch, had two older sisters. Photo c1905 by Lugg & sons of Okehampton.

He was born and brought up in the village, spent most of his life here, and was the last ‘Finch’ to work at the Finch Foundry.

Finch Foundry Workers, Ralph with hand on hip, 4th from the left.

Ralph was the sort of person who was called upon to be the Presiding Officer in the Polling station for Parliamentary Elections too. Here seen in Sticklepath School polling station alongside the younger Roger Bowden his first cousin once removed.

Polling station at Sticklepath County Primary School 1950s or 60s? Who is casting their vote? (Do let me know!)

There were some new residents at the time of the 1939 Register, evacuees, and I think Ralph, who always had a twinkle in his eye and a kind word, will have used the opportunity to say hello and ask both the children and their host families how things were going. With so many families to visit in one day I don’t think he will have accepted many cups of tea on his was around though!

Ralph with Lynette (Violet) his first wife. ‘Tea’ in the 1960’s always included a saucer with the bone china cup and a teaspoon each with lumps (cubes)of sugar. Thinly sliced bread and butter too. I associate this gold hostess trolley with Auntie Lynette.

Whilst there are redactions in the 1939 register for people who may still be living, most heads of households in 1939 would be over 100 today, so it is likely the vast majority of house names will not be redacted. The Schedule helpfully numbers the houses and subjects (people) within so it is clear if a house is fully redacted or not legible. Note Findmypast.co.uk may have less redactions than Ancestry.co.uk

Example from Sticklepath village 1939 Register accessed via ancestry.co.uk July 2022

Some houses have changed name (or numbering in areas elsewhere), and quite a few small houses have been incorporated into larger ones either with extensions, or two or more houses later made into one. Several of the larger houses in the 1911 census and 1939 register were split into several households. Unfortunately there is nothing about numbers of rooms like 1911 census, but together and alongside random addresses from records of life events, wills, directories, newspapers etc, we can start to create a database, a useful list of houses and their occupiers at various points in time. Deeds and newspaper reports of auctions etc. can help with names of owners.

The database of Sticklepath Houses is in its early stages, starting with a list created in 1983 from people’s memories (especially Muriel Ching Bowden nee Finch) now slowly adding the 1939 register houses to the database and the occupants to the SticklepathOne Ancestry.co.uk ‘forest’.

If anyone is willing to share any photographs or information about their Sticklepath house with the Sticklepath Heritage Group or on the website please contact us. Similarly if anyone would like to know if I have information about their sticklepath house, do ask.

Miss E. A. Seward – A valuable obituary?

Elizabeth Ann Seward is not a direct ancestor of anyone. She never married. Yet we can learn so much diverse information from the newspaper report of her funeral, a transcription of which you can find below.

She was well respected, and at the grand old age of 87 years, many attended her funeral. Nowadays, sadly, many of us will spend our last months in a care facility, often many miles from our friends, associates and neighbours (FANS). Perhaps by virtue of being ‘out of sight’, and perhaps because those FANS don’t know about the funeral until too late, perhaps because families are much more spread out geographically and tend to be smaller, funerals may be poorly attended. Covid of course adds another level to that, with many social activities being curtailed, and numbers attending funerals restricted in recent times.

The newspaper gives useful genealogical details including her full name, age, address, and a number of relationships such as nieces and nephews. Often, particularly for men, occupation is included. In fact we learn here that her cousin John was church warden for many years.

Hints at character are often included – ‘A prominent member of the Women’s Institute’ (WI) she was ‘closely associated with the social activity of the village’ somehow implies lady-like activities, not that she was down the pub every evening or a loose woman!

Church was clearly important, to her cousin if not Miss Seward herself, since she donated a stained-glass church window in his honour.

I was aware of the WI, though we now know it was already going strong in the village in 1939. However, I learn of the ‘Belstone, Sticklepath and Sampford Courtenay Nursing Association’, of which she was President for many years. Their floral tribute tells of her ‘generosity and kindness’ to the nurses and association. We also find the secretary is called Miss Reynolds. Further research shows 156 donors to the association and that Albany Finch took over as the President (Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – Friday 04 August 1939).

I spot another floral tribute was sent by my great grandmother, widow of an Ag Lab, and wonder what the connection there was. Perhaps consider which of your ancestors was a contemporary too.

There is mention of the vicar being Rector of ‘Belstone with Sticklepath’, which might alert us to the fact that responsibility for the Sticklepath residents was passed from one vicar to another in different parishes over time.

There is also a hint about funerary customs – the bearers are listed, which is not surprising, but mention is also made of ‘A number of neighbours’ who ‘acted as relief bearers’. The coffin must have been carried a reasonable distance to require one or more teams of relief bearers. Her house, Sunnyside, pictured above, lies about mid-way between the church and cemetery, which are about 100 yards apart. Even a fairly wealthy woman was carried then, not taken by hearse.

My point? It is worth reading about funerals and other events taking place where your relatives lived, even if they were not themselves present. You may just pick up something that helps to put their life in context. Like any source, information should be confirmed where possible and often many new research questions arise – why, for instance, did she come to the village as a child? Where did her money come from to allow such generosity? Who benefitted after her death?

(Although I have used the tribute below, a fuller account can be found on her memorial on Findagrave using the Western Times 3 February 1939 report).

Western Morning News – Tuesday 31 January 1939 accessed via BritiishNewspaperArchive.co.uk

STICKLEPATH FUNERAL Last Tributes To Miss E. A. Seward.

Many mourners attended the funeral at Sticklepath Church yesterday of Miss Elizabeth Ann Seward, of Sunnyside. Sticklepath, aged 87. Miss Seward went to Sticklepath to live in her early childhood, and during her life had been closely associated with the social activity of the village. She was president for many years of the Belstone, Sticklepath, and Sampford Courtenay Nursing Association, and a prominent member of the Women’s Institute. Some time ago she was the donor of a stained-glass window to Sticklepath Church, in memory of Mr. John Cook, her cousin, who was a churchwarden for many years.

The service was conducted by Rev. C. Lister James (rector of Belstone-with-Sticklepath). Family mourners were Miss B. W. Seward and Miss M. W. Seward, nieces; Mr. and Mrs. Jack Tucker (Crook-Burnell), Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Hawkins (Waterslade), Misses Ada and Elsie Colwill (Hatherleigh), and Mr. Ashley Hopper (North Tawton). Mr. Frank Seward (nephew) was unable to attend.

Bearers were Messrs. J. Cooper, G. Brooks, J. Newcombe. A. Bowden. T. Holman, and G. W. Hellier. A number of neighbours acted as relief bearers.

THE MOURNERS. Among the mourners were Com G. Aldwell R.N., Mr J J. Newcombe (clerk to Okehampton Town Council) and Mrs. B. B. Newcombe (Okehampton). Messrs. C. Counter. Wright, Sleeman. J Cook. Harvey. Bowden. Wonnacott. Brook, R. Finch. E. Heggador,. C. Bowden. J. Newcombe, E. Hull. R. Bennett. A. Hopper. F Richards and A. G. French Mesdames E. C. Maynard. E. Heggarion, Simpson-Grey. M A Bowden. E. Tucker, F. Wonnacott. Cooke. Lethbridge, E Bowden. E Tucker. A. Bowden. S. Bowden. Jones E. Jones. Mr. and Mrs A. J Crews (Plymouth), ard Mrs. S. Yeo, Mr. and Mrs. F Fielder. Misses Alder Brown, Stewart. Mesney. E. Ireson. Warn. H. Heggadon. E. Cobbledick. Reynolds (secretary of the District Nursing Association). Littlejohns. and Nurse Gator.

Floral tributes were sent by Frank and May, Bessie and Mary; Margaret and Cary: Annie: Mrs Sloman and Miss Hockaday (Honeychurch); Mrs. Minnie Tucker and Lena (Mitcham. Surrey); Mrs M A. Bowden; Miss A. C. Watson (Plymouth); Dr. and Mrs Maynard: Elderton ar.d Miss Stewart: Mrs and Miss Miss A. C. Hastie, Mr. and Mrs Freeman (Berryfield. Mrs. and the Misses Colwill Hatherleigh; Mr and Mrs. Edgar Hawkins (Waterslade). Com. and Mrs Metherell (New Milton): Miss Reynolds: “In grateful memory of much generosity and kindness to the Nursing Association”: members of the Women’s Institute.

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