RootsTechConnect Announce the first group of Keynote Speakers for 2021

The first group of keynote speakers have just been announced, and they are a truly international group Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, a retired top female world golfer, Nick Vujicic, New York Times bestselling author and international motivational speaker from Australia, Francesco Lotoro of Italy, musician, composer and collector of music composed in captivity during the Holocaust; and from the U.S. Sharon Leslie Morgan, author and genealogist dedicated to promoting healing by providing resources for African American genealogical research.

A further eight keynote speakers will be announced in due course.

You can read more about the speakers by clicking the link below

Book your FREE place at the event by registering here

https://www.rootstech.org/?lang=eng

I am a RootsTechConnect Ambassador

Auction Treasures

The other day, before the second lockdown, I placed some bids at the local auction house for three lots of photographs. Two of my bids were unsuccessful but the third bid made me the owner of a packet of assorted photographs which appear to be from the period (roughly) 1900 – to 1930. Having collected the photographs I was able to look at them more closely than I had been at the auction preview day. I already knew that some of the photos, whilst appealing, had nothing written on the reverse to offer a few clues, although quite a few did and are going to provide me with some fun researching in the coming weeks. Some of the photographs are mounted on card bearing the name of the photographer’s business, but one in particular caught my attention. It is mounted on plain card and on the reverse, someone had handwritten Photo Bee Belton, 6 Wellington Place N.W.1.

Intrigued, I thought I would attempt to identify Bee Belton. Was she the subject or the photographer?

The photo (centre above) looks as if it was taken in the 1920s or early 30s, so I popped Bee/Beatrice Belton Photographer into Google which took me to Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1840 – 1940 where I found several photographers named Belton listed including a Miss Beatrice (Bee) Belton.[i]

Having confirmed that Bee Belton was a photographer my next stop was the British Newspaper Archive where I found numerous examples of her work. The Graphic dated 1 May 1920 included an example of her work exhibited at the Camera Academy Exhibition of work by Professional Portrait Photographers entitled ‘For of Such is the Kingdom of Heaven’ a charming study of a small child with book on her lap, gazing upwards. The narrative accompanying the photos complimented ‘the technical standard of the highest level and the artistic quality had made a great advance on exhibitions of a similar kind before the days of the world-wide conflict.’ In 1927 another of her photographs was published in The Graphic. On this occasion it was of Mr Sidney Davis, the racing motorist who had won the Grand Prix d’Endurance with his co-driver John Benjafield.[ii] Nowadays we know this as the Le Mans 24 hours race.

Her work also appeared in the Gentlewoman in 1918, 1919 and 1920. The Sketch printed her work numerous times between 1913 and 1930. I can imagine that her work might appear in magazines such as Country Life, there were plenty of “engagement” photographs and twenty first birthday portraits. Her work also included portraits of young children and although she was a London based photographer, her work appeared in newspapers across the British Isles, including in Aberdeen. The last newspaper entry I have been able to locate for her was in 1938, when she advertised a Situation Vacant in the Hendon and Finchley Times on 30 September 1938 for ‘Young Girl to learn photography. Small salary 6 Wellington Place St John’s Wood.’

The National Portrait Gallery website has a portrait of the actress Julia Emilie Neilson, taken by Bee Belton and published by Beagles Postcards c 1910.[iii] Bee Belton named on my photograph was a well known Professional Portrait Photographer, and obviously had a society clientele, it was time to try and establish more about who she was.

Turning to Ancestry, Find My Past and Free BMD, and making an assumption that Bee Belton was indeed single, as suggested by the Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1840 – 1940 website, I identified a number of females called Beatrice Belton. Knowing she had work published in 1913, I limited my search area for a birth in the 1870 – 1890 period, and found an entry in an Electoral Roll for 1918 for 6 Wellington Place named Beatrice Hilda Belton, qualified to vote “by occupation”. As early as 1913 Bee Belton had her business listed in the London telephone directory as a Photographer and Miniaturist, Telephone: Hampstead 5304.[iv] I had found my lady.

Beatrice Hilda Belton’s birth was registered in the first quarter of 1882 in Kingston (Surrey) registration district. The General Register Office website confirmed that her mother’s maiden name was Taylor.

There were four Belton/Taylor marriages between 1873 and 1880, but the 1891 census has a Beatrice H Belton was living at 59 Upper Gloucester Place with her parents Frederick and Amelia and siblings Mabel E and Frederick H.[v] Father Frederick was a Corn dealer and employer. Both her brother Frederick and Beatrice were scholars. The marriage between Amelia Taylor and Frederick Belton took place in Wandsworth registration district in 1873. In the years following, Amelia gave birth to Beatrice’s siblings, Mabel Eliza in 1876, Frederick Harry in 1878 both births registered in Wandsworth registration district.  

By 1901, the family were living at 144 Marylebone Road, Frederick the younger was no longer living with his family and Beatrice was working as a book keeper, although Mabel does not appear to have an occupation.[vi] Young Frederick was by now married and living with his wife Alice in Hammersmith, working as a clerk to a corn dealer, perhaps in his father’s business.

By 1911, the Belton family members were still living at 144 Marylebone Road, Frederick Snr was now described as a Corn and Petrol dealer, but neither Mabel nor Beatrice are shown as having any occupation.[vii] Also living at the same address but as a separate household, were young Frederick and his wife Alice, his occupation was given as a Corn dealer and dealer in motor accessories, but although they had been married for over ten years, there were no children. When Frederick enlisted in 1916, his attestation records confirm that there were no children. Frederick died in 1924. Frederick Belton Snr died in 1922, and his wife Amelia died in Southend in 1938.

In the spring of 1935, Beatrice married Wilfred H Sharp. Later that year her sister Mabel Eliza passed away. Probate was granted to Beatrice H Sharpe, wife of Wilfred Howard Sharp on 2 March 1936.[viii]

The 1939 Register shows Wilfred and Beatrice were living at 1 Gloucester Terrace, Southend with a live in housekeeper and Beatrice’s occupation is given as Professional Portrait Photographer. They are also to be found listed on the electoral roll at 6 Wellington Place in London with their abode given as 1 Gloucester Terrace, Southend. A search using Google street view shows a rather nice large house, close to the sea.

In the 1950s, 60s and early 70s Beatrice and Wilfred were living in Wokingham in another substantial property. Wilfred died in 24 June 1971 and Beatrice on 15 April 1972. Her estate was valued at £63,711, almost £900,000 at today’s values and almost £18000 in Estate Duty was paid. Neither of Bee’s siblings had any children, and Beatrice left the residue of her estate to her nephew, the son of one of Wilfred’s siblings and her personal belongings to his wife.  

Bee Belton was a successful businesswoman. She soon adopted the technology of the day – the telephone, and was one of the first group of women enfranchised by the Representation of the People Act 1918.[ix] She was a member of the North London Centre (of professional Photographers and wrote and acted in a play entitled ForwardA Play with a Moral which was performed at the 1930 Professional Photographers Congress which was held in the New Horticultural Hall, Vincent Square, London. Bee played the character of Miss Jones, ‘a modern businesswoman who buys an old fashioned photographic studio and makes amazing changes to bring the business up to date.’[x] There are some photos of the production on the the EdinPhoto website, so perhaps Bee can be seen amongst the cast. One can hazard a guess that her play was in part autobiographical.

I have no idea who the sitter was in the photograph though.


[i] https://www.cartedevisite.co.uk/

[ii] https://www.britannica.com/sports/24-Hours-of-Le-Mans

[iii] https://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw260188/Julia-Emilie-Neilson?LinkID=mp151283&role=art&rNo=0

[iv] BT Archives; London, England; British Phone Books 1880-1984

[v] The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891; Class: RG12; Piece: 101; Folio: 53; Page: 42; GSU roll: 6095211

[vi] The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1901; Class: RG13; Piece: 115; Folio: 137; Page: 19

[vii] The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1911; Class: RG14; Piece: 575

[viii] Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England

[ix] https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/electionsvoting/womenvote/parliamentary-collections/collections-the-vote-and-after/representation-of-the-people-act-1918/

[x] http://www.edinphoto.org.uk/1/1_congresses_from_1910_play_1930.htm

Epidemics, Family History and 19th Century Anti-Vaxxers

At a time when, across the world, we are anxious about the spread of the COVID-19 virus, many of us who are family historians will probably have at the back of our minds, the Spanish Flu epidemic which occurred at the end of WW1. Estimates of the number of deaths vary between 24.7 million to 100 million, although more recent research argues that these figures are exaggerated and the true number was 17.4 million.[i]  This website contains some interesting scientific data about the epidemic and makes comparisons with the current outbreak of COVID-19. https://ourworldindata.org/spanish-flu-largest-influenza-pandemic-in-history.

Whatever the actual number of deaths, many family historians are aware of at least one death if not more happening within their own families. Whilst the epidemic is considered to have ended in 1920, my own mother in law lost her father from pneumonia in 1921, and always attributed his death to Spanish Flu. She was the eldest of 4 children and aged 11 at the time. She became the carer of her younger siblings as her mother went out cleaning to keep a roof over the heads of her children and no doubt to avoid the horrors of the workhouse.

As part of my PhD research, I traced the family tree of one of the major figures who campaigned against compulsory smallpox vaccination in both Scotland and England, Dr. Walter R. Hadwen, a Gloucester doctor. At the time his children, Una, Harral, John and Grace were born, he was a pharmacist with a business in Highbridge in Somerset. He refused to have his children vaccinated against smallpox and was prosecuted several times. In January 1882, he appeared at Axbridge Petty Sessions charged with failing to have his child Una vaccinated. When the Chairman ordered that Una should be vaccinated and Hadwen fined, an angry Hadwen responded “You can’t go by the opinion of medical men only in this matter” much to the amusement of the court.[ii] He appeared in court again on 11 August 1884 for refusing to allow his son John to be vaccinated.[iii]

Of his children, Harrel died shortly after his birth, and John, died in 1918, a victim of influenza. John qualified as a doctor at the University of London and according to the Medical Register became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians the same year.[iv] Hadwen joined the Royal Navy in 1909, and was appointed to the Royal Hospital Haslar as a surgeon on 12 August 1912.[v] His grandfather William R. Hadwen (1819 – 1903) had served in the marines, so perhaps the call of the sea was in young Hadwen’s blood. In 1911 John was serving onboard HMS Cornwallis.[vi] He arrived in New York in April, having left Liverpool on April 12th 1918.[vii] New York has been suggested as the source of the Spanish Flu epidemic as there is evidence of a pre pandemic wave of the virus in the city.[viii]

Hadwen was serving on HMS Lancaster a the time of his death. A newspaper account appeared in the Gloucester Journal dated 23 November 1918 reproduced two letters sent to his parents by Rear Admiral P.H Colomb and B Clive Deman. Rear Admiral Colomb includes the comment: Your son gave his life for others. Laying down at the moment when he had brought all the great number of influenza patients on board some 200 to 300 – back to health and safety.[ix]

He is commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves as J Hadwen, Lieut – Commander Surgeon. He was laid to rest in the Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, but does not have a CWG headstone.[x] His grave, and his photograph can be seen on FindAGrave https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/13527233/john-hadwen and includes the comment from Colomb’s letter.

H.M.S Lancaster

Perusing the ship’s log for October 1918 it is possible to see the numbers of officers and men on the sick list each day. It is a tribute to Hadwen’s skill that only three names appear on the Casualty list for HMS Lancaster in October 1918.[xi] Herbert Weston on October 3rd 1918 and Alfred Caleb Hallett, possibly the hospital case landed on October 5th who died on October 13th. Both men were buried in the Bellavista Old British Cemetery in Peru . The third death listed was for Hadwen himself on October 23rd.  There are 6 WW1 servicemen buried in the Bellavista Cemetery.[xii]

The ship’s logs notes that Hadwen had joined the ship in May 1918, was discharged to hospital on October 22nd and passed away the following day. A funeral party was landed at 8.30 a.m. returning to the ship at 11.15 on October 24th.[xiii]

In 1921 Dr. Walter R. Hadwen and his wife visited San Diego and were able to visit their son’s grave. Hadwen delivered lectures during his trip and was quoted in a paper that: Dr. Walter R. Hadwen, famous physician of Gloucester, England, states that before a decade has passed the whole germ theory of disease will go by the board. “Inoculation for the prevention of disease is the most ridiculous assumption ever introduced into a sane world. – ‘ he says.[xiv]

There are no living descendants of Dr. Walter R Hadwen, the Hadwens lost both of their sons, but both daughters married. Una died in 1940 and her only daughter Eulalie, died unmarried in 1995. Grace died in 1974, childless. Being an opponent to vaccination and having lost his son to Spanish Flu, I do wonder what Hadwen would think of today’s efforts in the research laboratories across the world work flat out to develop a vaccine for COVID-19.


[i] P. Spreeuwenberg; et al. (1 December 2018). “Reassessing the Global Mortality Burden of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic”. American Journal of Epidemiology. 187 (12): 2561–2567. doi:10.1093/aje/kwy191. PMID 30202996

[ii] Source: Weston Mercury and Somerset Herald, 14 January 1882, British Newspaper Archive.

[iii] Source: Western Gazette 15 August 1884.

[iv] Source: Medical Register 1913  FindMyPast.

[v] Source: The Navy List, Medical Establishments, p. 554,  FindMyPast

[vi] Source: 1911 Census for England and Wales, RG14PN34973 RD640 SD4 ED21 SN9999 FindMyPast.

[vii] Source:Passenger List Leaving the UK, FindMyPast.

[viii] Source: https://ourworldindata.org/spanish-flu-largest-influenza-pandemic-in-history; Olson D. R., Simonsen L., Edelson P. J., Morse S. S. (2005). Epidemiological evidence of an early wave of the 1918 influenza pandemic in New York City. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 102 11059–11063. 10.1073/pnas.0408290102

[ix] Source: Gloucester Journal, 23 November 1918, British Newspaper Archive.

[x] https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/4010217/hadwen,-/

[xi] http://www.naval-history.net/xDKCas1918-10Oct.htm

[xii] https://www.cwgc.org/find/find-war-dead/results/?cemetery=BELLAVISTA%20OLD%20BRITISH%20CEMETERY

[xiii] http://www.naval-history.net/OWShips-WW1-05-HMS_Lancaster.htm

[xiv] Source: Lompoc Review Volume III, Number 21, 8 July 1921, California Digital Newspaper Collection, Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research, University of California, Riverside, <http://cdnc.ucr.edu&gt;.

A Belated Thursday Rootstech Report Part One

You may have wondered what happened to my promised blogs from RootsTech 2018, well a few “gremlins” got in my way, so here is my summary of my experiences of Thursday.

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An inspiring talk by Brandon Stanton  kicked off Thursday’s proceedings. In all honesty, I had never heard of this remarkable man or of his blog Humans of New York but his keynote speech was both inspiring and moving and I will be joining his followers on Facebook.

After dropping out of college and a not having any focus or purpose in his life for a period, eventually he returned to education, obtained his degree, found a job. This gave him the status, money and material possessions which many crave.  However, life had an unpleasant surprise in store and like so many others at the time, when the recession struck, he lost his job. Again, the time had come for him to rethink his life.

Having always been a keen photographer, he eventually decided that he wanted to try and do something with his passion and he took his dream and made it a reality. He did not wait for the perfect idea to come along, by a process of trial and error it finally evolved into the successful career he now has.

In itself, that is not such a remarkable story, many people have taken their dream and turned it into reality, but what resonated so strongly for me personally, was how he realised the need for each of us to take time to listen to what other people needed to say. REALLY listen. Not to think about life in terms of me and my own status in life. During my own working life prior to my retirement, I spent almost 30 years working in the voluntary sector. My work involved talking to and listening to, people who were facing some sort of problems or crises in their lives. Often by being able to talk to a complete stranger, the problem became more manageable for that troubled individual and by suggesting what options might be available- the individual concerned was empowered to take back control of their problem.

Listening, really listening to our fellow man, showing concern, makes a real difference.

RootsTech 2018 – Ready for the Off

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The genealogy community is gathering in Salt Lake City for the start of RootsTech2018, and I am delighted to be an Ambassador this year. I will be writing more blogs, tweeting and keeping my followers in the UK and around the world with events.

Some statistics from RootsTech:

More than 14,000 advance ticket sales.

380 Computers installed, over 8000 feet of network cable.

182 plug strips.

197 exhibitors, with 50 new companies exhibiting for the first time and 65 companies having exhibited for 4 consecutive years.

There are 300 classes available for delegates and a number of these are being streamed live, as are the Keynote speeches. You can see the schedule by following the link: https://www.rootstech.org/

Although classes have started already, the first keynote speech is at 4.30 today when Steve Redwood, the CEO of Family Search International will be taking to the stage, and the all new Innovation Showcase will be introduced .

Keep an eye on my Twitter feed @historylady2013 for updates.