My Family Name Research by Reg Hounsell

(Grandson of Reginald Charles Ewart, and son on Cyril)


A slow beginning - Some years ago my daughter's friend moved from Royston, Hertfordshire, down to Poole in Dorset. Her first letter asked if we had relatives in Poole as a girl in her new school had the same surname as us. At that time I had no interest in Genealogy, but looking at a telephone directory showed many Hounsell's. A couple of years later I was taken to see the International Genealogy Index's (IGI) of parish church registers, organised by the Mormons, to look up Ravenscroft records for my Aunt, Gladys Ravenscroft, (I mention this as the Ravenscroft connection turns up again later). Whilst there I also looked for records of Hounsell's in the Dorset microfiche section. There they were, stretching back to 1565, christenings and marriages of Hounsell's in many small villages around the Bridport area. A new project - to try to find a link back from our generation to those people, long gone, but now very much alive in my thoughts was borne. Unfortunately, it was put on hold for some time whilst completing other tasks.

A chance discovery - How to go about researching the family roots? Fortunately I had a friend living in Royston and a work colleague who gave me some advice about Genealogy and loaned me some Family History magazines. Another chance discovery of a book ' the Bridport story', whilst perusing 2nd hand books in a Railway book shop in Stamford, Lincolnshire, mentioned the Hounsell companies of Bridport involved in the spinning trades and a boat called the 'Mary Hounsell'. Thinking it would now be reasonably simple, albeit time consuming, I naively decided that I would make a fast start by visiting Bridport, especially as my daughter remembered there was a museum there she had visited on a school journey.

A long day trip has its rewards - On a very sunny summers day, when my wife would rather have been on the beach, I visited Bridport museum. The one in the town centre had a file of reminiscence of people working in the local Industries, plus a 'Hounsell' file in the family history section which contained some interesting information including copies of letters between the Curator and a newspaper in Newfoundland, but little Genealogy help. In the museum nearer to the Sea (The original port was continually silting up even over a 1000 years ago, eventually this area was renamed West Bay) they had the picture and a model of the Mary Hounsell. Also, another surprise, the lady in charge turned out to have originally lived in Royston and had even baby-sat for us - A small world!

Although I had lots of interesting information, I made little progress in uncovering the origins of the family name or identifying links between generations.

A new beginning - Some time after my Aunt Gladys died (she is the one in the picture of Frank and family with my mother) Rosemary Holman who was researching her husband's family history contacted my mother. Tracking forward from brothers 3 generations back, she had discovered my Aunt, then my mother (The maiden name of my grandmother, Emily Ravenscroft, was Holman). By coincidence, Rosemary lives in Dorset and so after providing her with much information on my Holman relatives in England and Canada stretching back as far as 1900 - and receiving even more excellent Holman information from her - we discussed Hounsell's. I knew about the Weymouth connection, but not enough to identify the right records. At this point I did what should have been done a long time ago. I discussed the subject with my father. He has Granddad's Army record and some details of Great Grandfather. Armed with this information, Rosemary quickly provided the Weymouth, Upwey and Broadwey information. Some is taken from the 1891 census, the rest from the 1851 census, which is available on CD. In fact, she became so fascinated, two trips to Dorchester County records office turned up all the other information through to 1700's & Long Bredy, together with details of the headstones she has seen in the various church yards.

So many of us - Now the difficult bit has started. Getting the Web site going so quickly has helped us all focus our energies on linking the family members' back together. It has been great 'discovering' so many still alive and with their families. What wonderful tools, electronic databases, the World Wide Web and Email are, in enabling us to discover and communicate together. Unfortunately to go further back will require a lot of effort and luck to find connections. I notice no other researchers have mentioned connections before 1750. But maybe that will be tomorrow's news!