Over the next two weeks I am going to share excerpts from my novels about Thomas Radwinter; he starts by tracing his own family history, and then later investigates other people’s stories, and not just genealogical ones, but mysteries in their everyday lives.
Each of the four novels starts with an introduction from Thomas which is amended in each novel as his personal life changes.
His story starts in the autumn of 2013, but continues the following year; this part opens when he is looking into the maternal side of his family, the Magicks. He uses a genealogical site, MyTimeMachine, and here he is ploughing through all he can find out about the Magick family, but being Thomas he works in a back to front way, starting with the 1841 census, rather than with more recent generations:
I got a bit of a shock, I can tell you because there were no Magicks in 1841. I thought there might have been at least one of us. I soon got over my shock though as I remembered the way the Radwinters had seemed to disappear and reappear, so I changed the setting on the search of the 1841 census to allow variations in spelling.
I came up with fourteen different names which had an approximate similarity to Magick; there were Macks and Moggs in Cornwall which I had already discarded, and now, from my fourteen names I also got rid of Migus, Mogus, Mugus and Mugack straight away. They seemed too much like a firm of small town solicitors… and that was too uncomfortably close to my former life.
Then I also got rid of Mages, Magus, Maguss and Mayguss… maybe they were a firm of accountants… Stop it! Concentrate! These seemed names related to each other, as did Magos and Maguss and Meggis, so I discounted them too.
That leaves me with Magwick, Megicks and Megwick and I can see that maybe a name something like one of these might have changed into Magick. I might have to go back to the discards, but I’ll have a little look at these three names and see where they lead. I worked so hard on the Radwinter trail that now I’m quite adept at finding my way through the records on MyTimeMachine.
It’s a good site, but I haven’t properly tapped into all its resources; I want to look at maps at some point to see exactly where my ancestors lived; I want to look at newspapers, I’m sure there’s plenty of reports about the Radwinters in Easthope.
Back to the 1841 census. The Magwicks all come from the south-east, Sussex and Surrey: Chichester, Worthing, Midhurst, Chailey, West Firle & Newhaven, Farnham and Hambledon. I’ll look them up on a map in a minute. The Megicks all come from Lampeter in Wales, and the Megwicks come from the north-east, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
I side-track, looking at names… It’s so interesting the waves of popularity of different names and in this small selection there are a few unusual ones too, Jenat and Clement…
Back to the task in hand, back to MyTimeMachine, and I’ve lost the page; I call it up again, and I do one of those funny things I sometimes do, and I typed Hagick instead of Magick… and up pops a family of Hagis’s, including Horatio Hagis. What a name!
I’ve seen before that sometimes whoever transcribes the census returns (and I’ve read somewhere that prisoners in jail do it) – makes errors; it’s understandable because to be frank, sometimes the writing is pretty illegible. I just have a feeling about Horatio, I mean what a splendid name, Horatio Hagis! There are six Hagis’s, John and Ann who are adults, and their children Charlotte, 9, Elizabeth, 3, William, 0, and Horatio 11.
I’m supposing Hagis was mis-transcribed from Magic; I hesitated to look for some reason and I took my cup through to the little kitchen at the back of the house and washed it up, dried it, and put it away. Rebecca trained me well… Rebecca, my ex-wife…
I always feel guilty that I think about her. I mentioned it in a mumbly way to my brother Paul who was married and had four boys with his ex-wife; he said it was normal; I’d been married to Rebecca for nearly ten years and had been with her before that, not exactly half my life but a long time. It was to be expected, he said. I still don’t like it… I don’t like remembering the last horrible year of our marriage, and maybe don’t like to remember even more the previous not horrible and sometimes quite happy years…
I went upstairs to check on Kenneil; he looked so sweet, I was overwhelmed with love for this little boy and stood smiling down at him in a soppy way. He’s a little rascal sometimes, not surprising really; but he’s a good little chap and when he gets used to this new life with me and his Mama I’m sure he’ll be fine.
Back to Horatio; I have such a strong feeling about him. I look again at the transcription; John and Ann and the younger three, Charlotte, Elizabeth and baby William are all in Bedminster, I have no idea where that is. Horatio is in North Witchford and I have no idea where that is either.
John and Ann live in Watery Lane in Nailsea, in the registration district of Bedminster in Somerset, and when I go onto the copy of the census page I can see that their name really is Hagis, not a misreading of Magic. The writing is so extremely faint that I have to zoom right in and squint at the screen. I can’t make out what occupation John has, I think it might be boat something, boat builder maybe? But it looks more like boat liner and then I realise it’s not a B but a very curly C and he is a coalminer. Coalmining, in Somerset? Really? But that’s where all the farmland was flooded; it looked flat and farmy and not a bit like a coalmining area, but this was a hundred and seventy years ago. He has three children, and he is definitely Hagis not Magic.
So, to young Horatio Hagis and here he is on his own in North Witchford, and my heart sinks… he is in a workhouse…
But however sorry I feel for young Horatio, I have to check and see if really he’s Magic not Hagis; even if he is, it doesn’t mean that he’s anything to do with us. I’m getting the feeling that, just as Radwinter was adopted by my namesake Thomas, Magick too might be a name which has muddled itself into existence at some time in the nineteenth century.
I sit back from looking at the facsimile of the census return for Horatio in the North Witchford workhouse and wonder if perhaps this time my back to front way of working is a bit stupid; maybe I should start with my parents, Sylvia Magick who married Edward Radwinter, known as Raddy, then find her parents and work backwards as far as I can. I’ve begun to think of him as Raddy, not Edward, it’s easier, not as painful…
If you would like to find out what happens to Thomas, here is a link to my book:
… and here is a link to my other e-books: