The process of researching the West Family tree has been time consuming but highly rewarding. In many ways, I have just touched the surface. Some Parish records from the West’s geographical area, which was Berkshire before 1974 and is now Oxfordshire are available, transcribed and indexed, but an equal number are in progress. This means countless hours of reading original manuscrifts or microfilms, some of which are virtually unreadable. Some day these records will all be available in transcribed and indexed form so that all of the unfinished searches can be done in a few days. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), none of our family have become Mormons, and therefore there is limited evidence of our branches Wests, Longs, Aldworths, Westells, Whitings etc. in the International Genealogical Index put out by that church.
BC cousins: Linda Currie, Ruth Tuttle, Rich West, John West, Ann Tasker, Donna & Jim Crook, Danae McKay, Joan West and from England cousins: Colin Smith, Ruth Pocock, Elisabeth Atkin, Helen Barker, Christine Frances, Sally Clarke, James Prowting, Beth Sutherland and Helen Claus (in Holland) have supplied data also through their own family research.
There is still much to be gleaned from letters and other documents which you may have hidden away in a cupboard somewhere, and I urge you to make them known. I started my research with the basic assumption that the family had left England and had very little contact with the relatives there over the years. Reading my mom’s letters and talking to the aunts, I realized that there was in fact much letter writing in addition to actual visits; Grandma in 1924, Phil in 1927, Grandpa & Grandma in 1937, Edna and Betty in 1951, my Mom and Dad in 1960, Marjorie & Harold in 1963, and many since. Every Christmas, greetings were sent and gifts were exchanged with both the West and the Long branches. (Our family fondly remembers receiving a yearly Christmas gift of a large tin of Peak Freans cookies from one of our England relatives).
Needless to say, the search process has been a labour of love for me, and I highly recommend continuation of the search for answers to many unanswered questions regarding our English family to anyone who has the time, resources and inclination. My data is always available to any member of the family who might want to continue. Quite apart from the traditional county records searches are the questions which have arisen from family verbal history. Jack Ireson told me that his mother (Alice née Long) had instructed him to never mention the shooting at Venn Mill when talking to a West. He had no more details than that. For months this left me completely puzzled, especially since none of the Vancouver relatives were aware of it. Finally a letter from Mary Irish explained what was apparently a tragic family feud between WWW and his brother Daniel (see The Fourth Generation – Daniel). Jack Ireson had another story which told of a feud between two West millers on Letcombe Brook, in which one held back water, interrupting the working of the Mill downstream and resulting in flooding in the area. Since Venn Mill (WWW) is downstream from Lower Hanney Mill (Daniel), this story gains credibility. There is also much insight to be gained by research into the Strict (or Particular) Baptists which bonded such a large number of the family from Daniel (b. 1813) down through our own generation in the Grove area. A book entitled The Seceders (available from most members of the church, but otherwise not to be found in local libraries, has been recommended by several of these parishioners as good background to the evolution of this sect.
I find our roots absolutely fascinating, particularly because I can find no connections with nobility (with exception of the Aldworth’s distant relation to Irish royalty). Although a few of the branches of the family were prosperous tradesmen and farmers, most were commoners. I was interested to note a large number of “illegitimate” children who were baptized (some in our family, including Benjamin, son of Martha, who was Daniel’s b.1813 sister, Henry Prior, etc.). I was quite moved by the number of “X” markings in the marriage registers, in lieu of a signature. If such registers are an indication of the general state of literacy in England at the end of the 18th century, then close to 80% were illiterate.
Of course, then came William Westell West and his family, and all that changed. From a heritage standpoint, the children of John and Emma have in the last decade of the 20th century given us our own kind of great wealth which is knowing each other. Even before the “kissin’ Kuzzins” annual picnic, I got to know my cousins and aunts and uncles through summer get togethers at Grantham’s landing (Edna & Betty), Gibsons (Ruth, Wes & Grandpa), Boundary Bay (Harold & Marjorie), Beach Grove (Fred & Nora), , Kelowna (Jack & Margaret) and during my Yale days, visits to Willowdale (Ken & Irene). I cherish the memories of the wonderful Christmas dinners (groaners!!) at Taylor Way, 52nd Ave., S.W. Marine Drive and when we hosted those dinners at our home on 12th avenue in East Burnaby, particularly the happy hours around the piano. “Memories are made of this”….
A most wonderful part of my visits to England was meeting the fine people of Berkshire, both relatives and non-relatives. Many thanks to all of them for their hospitality, interest and of course, their memories. The best part of my research was coming home (in ’93) and visiting with my aunts and getting to know them again after too many years of banishment in Victoria. As always, they’re wonderful! Love and many thanks!
The following are my “sources” in England (add 01235 unless otherwise noted):
- Arthur Bayliss, town historian in Steventon 831444*
- Eleanor Bryant, (deceased) Stowford, Wingfield, Trowbridge, Wiltshire (contact Phil Bryant at 01225 752253)
- Gordon and Joyce Entwhistle, current owners of Hine’s Mill – Grove 763988
- Philip Hope, grandson of Joseph Aldworth (m4), Reading 01734 875738.
- Gordon Hope nephew of Philip – “Cleobury”, South Hill, Droxford, Hampshire
- Jack and Enid Ireson (m6), 33 Wessex Road, Didcot 0X11 85X 813947
- Keith (deceased) and Audrey Long (m6), Byrecroft, Faulkland, Bath, BA35U2 01373-834225
- Mary Irish, (deceased)
- Susan Marsden (Prowting) daughter of Joyce & Wilbur 24 Glen Way, Watford, Middlesex 01923-225197
- Jim Prowting , son of Joyce & Wilbur, 01923-236887
- Joyce & Wilbur Prowting (deceased)
- David Rogers (deceased) – former owner of Old Blewbury Mill
- Billy and Joan Smith, great grandson of William Aldworth (deceased)
- Herbert and Doris Smith, great grandson of William Aldworth (deceased)
- Alan Stoyel, former owner of Venn Mill 01367-718888
- Mr. Tugwell, Deacon, Grove Strict Baptist Chapel 765602
- Muriel West & sons Joe & Peter, descendant of Daniel West 768015 Garland Farm, West Challow 0X129PB
- Ruth Pocock – Great great grand-daughter of William Aldworth and Niece of Percy & Miriam West
- Colin Smith – Great great grand-son of William Aldworth
- Helen Barker – Great great grand-daughter of William Aldworth