Reflecting on the Guild blogging challenge and looking ahead

Over recent weeks I’ve been posting a series of Cavers one-name study blog posts. This was prompted by a challenge set to Guild of One-Name Studies members. The goal was to write 10 new blog posts over a 12-week period. Which I’ve managed, starting with an opening blog post written shortly before the New Year bells, followed by 9 subject blog posts between January and early March 2020.

The range of topics covered has been very broad, ranging over newspaper articles, mysteries over strays and Cavers individuals popping up in unexpected places, Cavers surname references spotted in new online databases, and posts about some of the Cavers surname gems I found for sale on eBay. I’ve been really pleased with the variety of material covered. Each blog post required new research to be undertaken, as well as writing, but was a delight to prepare and post. And although I’ve been blogging about Cavers topics here since 2011, it has been very encouraging to know that I can still blog about things this easily, and cover an interesting variety of topics and subjects.

Looking ahead I am to build on this momentum, and continue to blog regularly, though less frequently than in recent weeks. That rate is not sustainable for me long-term, especially with my severely disabling progressive neurological illness. But blogging more often is something I can continue doing, albeit at a more leisurely pace.

I also aim to continue the mix of subject matter explored recently. So expect a wide variety of upcoming posts over the next year and beyond. If readers have specific topics that they would like me to explore do please let me know in the comments section below. Otherwise my plans are as outlined above.

An employer’s letter of reference for a WW1 Cavers soldier

I’ve blogged before about finding unexpected gems on eBay related to my Cavers one-name study. Recently I was able to buy another, this time a letter of reference dating from 1916. The letter was written by a hop merchant in London, England.

1916 letter of reference for soldier Harold CaversTranscribing the letter it reads as follows:

9 Southwark Street, London
December 7th 1916

This is to certify that Harold C. Cavers, now a private in the 1/7th Battalion London Regiment (No. 8234, Lewis Gunner), has been in our service since 1907 and will, we sincerely hope, return to our service when the War is over. We have always found him truthful, faithful, attentive to business, most punctual and as honest as the day, and from our knowledge of him during the time he was with us, we know that under no circumstances or under any temptation would he wittingly commit any breach of trust.

(Signed) Arthur Morris Co.
of Arthur Morris & Co., Hop Merchants

I was curious about the circumstances in which such a letter might have been written for a serving soldier. Sadly this soldier’s detailed army service records don’t survive. Many soldier records were lost in the bombing of WW2. But another record reveals that he received the Silver War Badge, given to invalided soldiers to wear to show what had happened to them. This record also reveals that he enlisted in the 7th London Regiment on 15th November 1915, and was discharged on 11th July 1918, due to “Wounds”. At this time he was 26 years old, and had served overseas. An army pension record notes that he was living at Redcar in the northeast of England.

Harold Charles Cavers belonged to the large London Cavers family, probably of Scottish descent originally. He was born at Camberwell in 1892, son of licensed victualler (publican) Augustus Cavers and his wife (and cousin) Alice Fussell. In the 1891 census, the year before Harold was born, this Cavers family appear running the Black Raven pub in Bishopsgate, London.

Harold’s father Augustus Cavers died in 1895, aged just 39. By the 1901 census Harold, now aged 7, was living at the Licensed Victuallers School in Upper Kennington Lane, Lambeth, S.E. London.

By 1911 he was back living with his widowed mother Alice at 23 Cavour Street, Kennington, S.E. London. His occupation was noted in the census as “Junior Clerk, at Hop Merchant”. He was only 18 at this point, so must have started working for the hop merchants when he was 14 or 15, if the date in the letter is accurate.

Harold Charles Cavers survived the war, and in 1921, now aged 29 and a commercial traveller, he married 26-year-old Florence Winifred Elsie Davies. Both were living at 181 Dalling Road, Hammersmith, London.

Harold Charles Cavers died on 9th December 1935 at Hounslow Hospital, Hounslow, Middlesex. At the time he was living at 52 Paddenswick-road, Hammersmith, Middlesex. His wife Florence survived him.

An unusual funeral in Hawick

Among the recent additions to the British Newspaper Archive was this Hawick Express issue of 29 November 1879.

FORESTERS’ FUNERAL – On Sunday last a large number of the brethren of Court Flower of Teviotdale turned out to attend the funeral of their deceased brother, George Cavers. Preceding the coffin, which was borne shoulder-high by four of their number, they went by way of High Street to Wellogate Cemetery, where, after the body had been committed to the grave, Bro. R. Waddell, C.R., impressively read the service for the dead prescribed by the order. Large numbers congregated at various parts to witness the cortege, and at the cemetery many gathered together to hear the service read.

From this report we know that the deceased man was a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters. This was established in 1834, and was a mutual aid society, providing financial support and savings options for members, in an era long before the British welfare state or readily available banking facilities.

A little genealogical digging identified the deceased man as 24-year-old waiter George Duncan Cavers, son of master tailor John Cavers and his wife Sarah Duncan. George had died of tuberculosis on 25 November 1879 at 2 Howegate, Hawick. He grew up in Hawick, but was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, USA in 1855, where his parents had emigrated to. Sadly his father died not long after, and the widowed Sarah returned to Scotland and Hawick with her four surviving young children.

By the 1861 census widowed Mrs Sarah Cavers and her children were living in Langlaw Place, Wilton parish, Hawick. All but the eldest child had been born in America. Sarah Duncan or Cavers later married again, to a Thomas Rattray, engineman. Her daughter Janet Cavers returned to the United States, and married English-born Thomas Binns at Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1876.

This Cavers family was one of those descended from James Cavers and Isabella Coltherd, part of the line of their grandson Thomas Cavers (b. 1791).

Cavers people in the Radio Times archive

The Radio Times is a UK radio and TV listings magazine which has been in print since the dawn of broadcasting in the UK, starting in 1923.

More recently an online digitised archive of its old BBC listings was created. This can be searched by keyword, meaning that it is possible to look for Cavers references.

Of course there is the usual problem of non surname results. Though unlike the British Newspaper Archive the issue this time is not Cavers the place name. Rather it is finding numerous references to potholers, people who explore caves!

Nevertheless there are useful surname references to be uncovered, albeit a tiny proportion of the 102 search results for “Cavers” (all meanings).

For example from 1924 and 1925 we find a Mr A.S. Cavers Secretary of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society appearing in the programme “Farmers’ Corner”, talking about “Clean Milk”. He was probably Adam Scott Cavers born in Yorkshire in 1854, son of Francis Cavers and Agnes Scott, but grew up in Hawick, after his parents returned to his father’s home area. He was an older brother of the Argyll siblings I blogged about recently. Later he appears living in Loughborough, Leicestershire, England, married with children. I suspect he was probably Adam S. Cavers whose death was registered in nearby Hinckley registration district in 1931, aged 76.

More recently, from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, we find actress Terry Cavers, accounting for 43 search results. She was a prolific performer on the BBC between 1971 and 1990, appearing in numerous plays and dramas, on television and on radio. Many were Scottish works, such as the “Kidnapped and Catriona” 1985 radio version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novels. Likewise she appeared in the 1982 television series of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s “Cloud Howe” and modern Scottish classic play “The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil” on BBC One in 1975. From her entry in the Internet Movie Database (which also covers TV programmes) we find that she also appeared in ITV’s Scottish television stalwart “Taggart”.

Cavers brothers in 1891 Argyll

Although Cavers people frequently turn up in the Hawick area and elsewhere in the Scottish Borders the surname rarely appears in much more distant parts of Scotland. So along those lines I was rather surprised to find a large Cavers household in 1891 Dunoon in Argyll, on the west coast of Scotland.

The household was living at a house called Ingleston in James Street, Dunoon. Living together there were two brothers and their families. Firstly William Cavers, aged 33, a boot salesman born in Yorkshire, his wife Georgean, and their children Francis and Agnes. Then also in the household were William’s younger brother John Cavers, a gardener aged 31, born Lincolnshire, plus his wife Sarah and their son Francis.

Although both brothers were born in England they grew up in Hawick, two of the children of gardener Francis Cavers and his wife Agnes Scott. I’ve blogged about this family before, including the circumstances of Francis’s death, and more recently discovering his illegitimate daughter.

William and family were still living in Dunoon in 1901 but John and family by then were in Leith, by Edinburgh. I have not traced either family further forward, though it should be possible to discover more about what happened to them afterwards.

A century old USA Cavers baby photo

I keep an eye on eBay for Cavers related artefacts. Usually my saved search for “Cavers” emails me about potholers, or – and surprisingly frequently! – “carver” chairs. But sometimes real gems turn up.

One item I got hold of recently was a baby photo of a young James Frederic Cavers, the photo taken in North Dakota, circa 1907. On the back of the photo a handwritten note says “To Aunt Mulla, Aint I kute in my pants & blouse?”. And above is noted “James Frederic Cavers age One year old”.

Photo of baby James Frederic CaversThese clues were enough to identify the child, because he shows up in the 1910, 1915 and 1920 census returns for North Dakota, USA with his parents James and Martha, and younger siblings William, George and Ruth. The family were living in Churchs Ferry, Ramsey, North Dakota, with James Frederic born in North Dakota in 1906. His father James William Cavers was born in Iowa.

Although some American Cavers references around this period remain something of a mystery, I can confidently identify this family. The father was born in Iowa in 1870, the son of Scottish emigrants James Cavers (born Roxburghshire, son of Adam Cavers and Janet Clark) and Isabella Broomfield (born Berwickshire, daughter of James Broomfield and Janet Armstrong). For more information about this extensive Roxburghshire Cavers family see Jim Richmond’s Cavers site, including its page about the baby’s grandfather James who emigrated from Scotland.

From member family trees here is a photo of baby James Frederic Cavers all grown up:

Photo of James Frederic Cavers as an adultAncestry trees also reveal that James Frederic Cavers married, and had several children, before dying in Minnesota, USA in 1974.

Searching for Cavers references in the British Newspaper Archive

I’ve often posted articles found in old newspapers. Thanks to the British Newspaper Archive these are some of the easiest sources to check quickly online, at least for Scotland and the UK. As I write the British Newspaper Archive already holds over 35 million pages from old British newspapers. Now to be fair the archive doesn’t contain all old British newspapers, though it certainly has a lot, and is adding more all the time. And there were few local newspapers, including in the Scottish Borders homeland of the Cavers surname, before the early 1800s. However the archive already has good coverage for Hawick. As well as many years of the Hawick News (started 1882) and the Hawick Express (started 1870), it includes a number of surrounding area papers, as well as many years of the Borders-wide paper the Southern Reporter (started 1855). Elsewhere the archive has good coverage of newspapers in Edinburgh and Fife, as well as in many parts of England.

Having said all that, searching for surname Cavers can be somewhat fraught. Searches are by keyword, not specifically surname, and the word “Cavers” can match both the surname and the parish of Cavers near Hawick that gave rise to the surname. Usually parish references predominate by far. Adding a forename can narrow it down, e.g. searching for “James Cavers”, “Francis Cavers” etc. Another tactic is to restrict the place of publication (an option in the search results form) to just Hawick published papers. Though even then you still have to wade through lots of Cavers parish results.

The quality of the OCR automated character recognition used in the archive text searches is not perfect, and there are often mistranscriptions. This does mean you may miss sought articles when searching by text keyword. But often the search does lead to something you want, the transcript (even with faults), can be good enough to judge an article’s relevance, and you can then click through to read the original newspaper page directly. Note it is also possible to browse newspaper issues directly, without using a keyword search, if you want to access the archive that way. Keyword searches, however, make searching the mass of pages quickly practical, that would be impractical to read fully.

The newspaper references I am posting online in the opening months of 2020 were found by searching for pages added to the online archive in the last 30 days – another handy search option available. This found old Cavers newspaper articles new for me, and hopefully of interest to the blog’s readers.

I love the variety of references that turn up. Obviously reports of births, marriages and deaths. But also advertisements from businessmen, court cases and crime reports, school prize lists and so much more. The content evolves over time, to be more varied and less about elite people later. It is always worth me checking the archive for interesting new Cavers content.

If you are interested in trying the British Newspaper Archive do check out their site. It is a subscription site, but you can subscribe for as short a period as a month, as well as longer. Alternatively the newspaper archive’s database is included in many FindMyPast subscription packages, alongside the other datasets FindMyPast provides access to.

London Poor Law school registers regularly adds new datasets, usually with indexes, transcripts and often linked images. I keep an eye on the new additions, and check any that might be promising for Cavers references. Usually that would need something Scottish based or UK wide. But when I spotted London Poor Law School Records I was hopeful, given the London Cavers family, which pops up in the poor relief records as well as records reflecting better times.

The new records online are the Poor Law School District Registers for 1852-1918, held by the London Metropolitan Archives. Only two Cavers names appear in the registers: brothers Edwin George Cavers (b. 1858) and Ernest Frederick Cavers (b. 1859). Note the older brother here is recorded in the school register as “George Edward Cavers”.

I’d found the brothers before in the Cleveland Street Workhouse in 1869 with their parents William and Sarah as well as younger siblings. The new school admission records date from the same period. Both brothers were admitted to Edmonton Schools on 27th March 1869. The admission register noted that neither had been in a workhouse school before, but both had been in another school or schools.

By the time of the 1871 census this large Cavers family were living at 4 Market Street, St Anne’s parish, Westminster. William was again noted as a gun maker, and together with his wife Sarah nine children were living in the household. This included Edwin Cavers, aged 14, and Ernest, aged 13.

I haven’t properly traced the brothers forward in time, but Ernest shows up in the 1939 Register, taken on the outbreak of war, a “Printer – Press” living in Great Percy Street, Finsbury, London, with a birth date noted as 7th October 1859. Noted as unmarried.

It is likely that other Cavers children in the nineteenth century received some form of poor relief, still to be uncovered.

A mystery Cavers girl from Selkirk

While browsing through the Scottish birth, marriage and death certificates again I looked at the 1861 marriage of “Isabella Scott or Cavers”, a 21-year old mender in a wool hosiery factory, living at 4 Fore Row, Hawick, daughter of Barbara Moyes maiden name Scott. Isabella married wool sorter William Spalding, also aged 21, of Wilton Place, Hawick. Very sadly Isabella died just over a week after her wedding. Her death certificate names just her mother again, no father noted. Who was he?

My working presumption is that he was a Cavers man, hence the two surnames that unmarried Isabella used when she married. Looking in the census finds her mother Barbara (who died in 1869 aged 51) was born at Selkirk. And a bit more digging finds mother and daughter together in the 1841 Selkirk census, living at Edinburgh Road, Selkirk, in the large household of Alexander and Jane Scott. Sadly the 1841 Scottish census doesn’t record relationships, but from their ages (44 and 40) this couple are likely to have been Barbara’s parents, with others in the house her younger siblings. Alexander was a stocking maker and Barbara a woollen factory worker. Barbara’s daughter was recorded as “Isabel Cavers” in this census, aged 1, born Selkirkshire.

Barbara Scott next appears in the 1851 census, by now wife of James Moise, stocking weaver and keeping of a lodging house, and living at Back Row, Selkirk with their children and some members of her Scott family. No sign of Isabel Cavers. By 1861 the “Moyse” family appear in Hawick, living at Mill Port, Hawick, James a wool framework knitter. In both 1851 and 1861 census returns Barbara is noted as born Selkirk. Again no sign of Isabel or Isabella Cavers living with her.

And then it gets very strange! Because the only possible glimpse of Isabella Cavers in the 1861 census is the 21-year-old “Isobella Cavers”, wool hosiery warehouse girl, living with her granny Helen Scott or Cavers at Roadhead, Hawick. Helen Scott was the widow of Thomas Cavers, and my gggg-granny! I’ve never known who this granddaughter Isobella was. She’s born in Selkirk per this census. Might she be Barbara Scott/Moyes’ daughter, and the illegitimate child of one of the sons of Helen Scott/Cavers? There’s also a mysterious 10-year-old Isabella Cavers living with the same Helen Scott/Cavers at Burnfoot, Wilton in 1851. Supposedly born Selkirkshire, and Helen’s daughter, but could that again be a granddaughter really born in Selkirk?

Helen Scott had 5 Cavers sons: Francis, James, John, Thomas and William. Francis Cavers was probably the most likely of these sons to have been Isabella’s father, close in age to Barbara, and I know that he gardened for a time in Selkirkshire. A paternity case might prove it, whether in the courts or the kirk session minutes. But for now I have one final clue. Guess who shows up as a witness at Isabella’s 1861 marriage per the certificate. Francis Cavers, almost certainly this same man. So I think this mystery is now pretty much solved, barring final 100% confirmation. And to think when I first looked at Isabella’s marriage certificate earlier I had absolutely no idea who she was …

A large cabbage

The British Newspaper Archive has recently been adding more pages from the Hawick Express newspaper. Here is a Cavers reference from there, from the 14 October 1876 issue. George Cavers was born at Hawick in 1848, son of John Cavers or Irvine and Janet Graham. George married Janet Bruce in 1886. He died at Hawick in 1912.

LARGE CABBAGE – Mr George Cavers, green-grocer, &c., received yesterday a very large cabbage, measuring 57 1/2 inches in circumference, and weighing 38 lbs. It is now exhibiting in his window, 30 High Street.