The Marks Family History

 Researching the MARKS family


How do you explain how one becomes interested in family history? What makes you want to travel back in time and find out how your ancestors lived, worked, and yes, even died? There is, in my opinion, a very thin line drawn between local history and family history and they run hand in hand as you research your family back through the years. So what started me on this fascinating hobby? My name is John Marks, born 1930 in Acock's Green a fairly new suburb of Birmingham at that time, born of a normal hard working family. I had three elder brothers, sadly all gone and three sisters of which only my younger sister remains. What I have since found is that when you are the youngest but one of a large family  your grandparents have very little time left to get to know you and in the case of my grandfather Marks he died when I was four years old. It would appear also that very little family knowledge gets passed down to you because again you are too young. So, back to how I got involved. About ten years or more ago my nearest and dearest said to me one daythat it would be nice to get to know more about her family ancestors, what scant knowledge I had of family research  was that it was very time consuming and involved a lot of travel searching for records you knew very little about. I must admit the idea did not fire my imagination.


A few years later I took early retirement and was getting used to my new way of life when one day my youngest son Vince brought up the topic of family history and said he would like to give it a go and what could I tell him to give him a start. Now, that posed a bit of a problem for me because I knew absolutely nothing of dates or hard facts that would help him. This was going to call for a deep memory search because apart from my younger sister Iris, there was no one to help, no uncles or aunts they were gone too. There was a faint memory of my parents marriage taking place at St Martins church, Birmingham, so I decided to enlist the aid of my younger sister. I asked here if by any chance she knew anything at all of mom and dads marriage, Yes, it was at St Martins Birmingham and it was in September - that`s  progress!  Working off the age of my eldest sister who was also eldest in the family I sent away for my parents marriage certificate to the Birmingham Registry Office. Now what did surprise me was the speed of their reply, holding my breath I opened the envelope, was I in luck? BINGO! there was my parents marriage certificate, the very first time I had ever seen it. Was it in that instant that I was bitten by the family history bug? I can`t really say, what I do know was that it was going to be a start for Vince, and for me, it was mission accomplished.


The certificate contained a wealth of information: first my father’s name, SAM MARKS, followed by age and condition, bachelor, occupation tool setter, residence at time of marriage followed by his fathers name and occupation, SAMUEL MARKS, Whip Thong Maker. Below was my mother’s name LILY LAWRENCE, followed by age and condition, spinster, occupation was left blank, residence at time of marriage followed by her father's name and occupation. ALBERT WILLIAM LAWRENCE, Hawker. Marriage date was September 4 1915, so my sister was right as regards to the month of the year. What was Vince going to make of this information? I had learned a bit more as regards my grandfather and, Vince  was suddenly in possession of information as to his grandfather and great grandfather, that had to be a big step forward for him but how he was going to make use of it I don’t know.


            The time had come to find out just how determined Vince was to trace his family history and also I had a

sneaking interest too. Computers!, that’s the way forward I was told, not that I was very impressed with that idea, yes they had their uses I know, but family history? Vincent was keen to tell me that big things were happening with the likes of the 1901 census was going to be put online and it would be searchable for a small charge, this would be followed by other census that were taken every ten years, also birth marriage and death records would also follow, the computer was going to be a huge step forward for researchers. Vince had always been into computers so I left him to it and wished him well.


The months rolled by and Vince suggested we send for the birth certificate of my eldest sister Hilda and see what that told us, which we did. We found that my mother and father and Hilda were living at Vaughton St, Aston, Birmingham, so another small step along the way. Then this epic occasion arrived that Vince had told us about, the 1901 census was put online with a fanfare of trumpets!!! And what happened? It CRASHED!! The demand was so huge the system could not take the strain and it was taken offline, oh dear! What a disappointment. Never mind it would soon be back with a much improved system we were told but, until that happened we were stumped. Vince had earlier purchased the 1881 census of Birmingham off the Church of the Latter Day Saints and searched for our elusive Samuel Marks but to no avail. We had hit a brick wall and we needed a kick start.  The phone rang one day about a week later and Vince announced in a pleased voice, “we have found our Samuel Marks at last”, and proceeded to explain how he had contacted a professional researcher for a couple of hours work to get us over this brick wall.The researcher had access to a part of the 1891 Birmingham census and we were in luck that it included the area we were interested in,she had soon located the following living in Vaughton Street, Aston, Birmingham


 Samual Marks, 34, Head,   Whip Thong Maker, Bristol, Somerset

 Eliza Marks      34, Wife,                               , Birmingham

 Harriet Marks,   9 , Dau

 Annie Marks,    7,  Dau

 Susan Marks,   5,  Dau

 Edith Marks,     3,  Dau

 Thomas Clark,  16, Stpson, Boot Finisher,         ,Northampton

 James Clark,    13, Stpson, Boot Riviter,            ,Bristol

 Emma Clark,     10 Stpdau,                               ,Birmingham


So it appears that Eliza Marks had been married before, but not only that, the researcher had looked up the 1881 census and found the same couple living in Bartholomew Row, Birmingham, but as Samuel Clark , Lodger,(head) M, 29, Whip Thong Maker, Bristol Somerset.Eliza Clark, wife, M, 27, Boot Machinest, Altrincham.Along with children, Thomas , James  and  Emma.


We were learning fast, it was not surprising we were unable to locate them in the 1881 census in the name of Marks.We now had a place and a rough age of our Samuel Marks so Vince decided to search for him in the birth indexes that were now online along with the marriage and death indexes, I must admit by now I was totally committed to the hunt and we were learning day by day. Vince was gradually trawling back through the years but he also had to consider the various spelling of the name Marks. Things got worse as all names became hand written and very faded in places, I didn’t hold out much hope, I must admit I willed my son to find the “holy grail” he was searching for but, would he?  And so the days rolled by and Vince was at the search whenever the opportunity arose until one day all that hard work paid off and Samuel Marks birth index appeared  out of the mist of time, or so it seems.


At last we could move forward, Vince had the privilege of sending for the copy birth certificate and it duly arrived within a few days, this was going to be a major step forward for us I was sure, if, and it was a big IF!! It was the right Samuel Marks.As it turned out the certificate told us  Registration District, Bedminster, Bristol,  When and Where: 13 August 1856 :Name Samuel: Father : Robert Marks : mother Harriet Marks formerly Burford : Fathers Occupation carpenter:  so there  we had what we hoped to be our next step which namely was to find the family in the 1851 census of Bedminster.We now hit a snag, the 1851 census was only available on CD which could work out very expensive if we had the wrong family also a trip to the Somerset Record Office would be likewise.


This was another challenge and Vince was asking on the internet for help from any other family researcher who had access to the 1851 census in the Bristol area, leaving the information we required.

           He had a few replies from people interested enough to answer but we were no further forward.It was at this time I decided to take up Vince’s idea and invest in a second hand computer, if I found I couldn’t get on with it not a lot would be lost and so, that is what transpired. There was no other reason I would have invested in a computer other than an urge to get more involved in the family research.This was going to be a big learning curve for me but my reasons were strong enough to get me through, of that I was sure.My computer was set up by Vince and a few brief lessons that were soon forgotten and I was ready to face the world.Not down hearted I went along to my local learning and skills council and signed up to a free intro to the computer.



Along with help from my mentor Vince I was soon able to find my way on to the internet and opened the way to new horizons.Taking another leaf out of my son’s book I decided to enlist the help of a professional researcher who was familiar with the Bristol area to get us over this brick wall that was holding us up. Choosing such a researcher and a good one was going to be a matter of luck so I wrote a letter (I was not into emails then) to  Jillian Day in Somerset whose name I had picked from The Family Tree magazine explaining what I required and giving her what information we had up to now. I had a very prompt reply that said she would be glad to do the work and to pay for two hours and see how far she could get with Marks family.


Having sent off a cheque I told Vince what I had done and like me he looked forward to her results. Each day I looked for the post but telling myself to give her time but this was one letter I was really pinning my hopes on.The day came when the letter came through the letter box with a bump, this was it, I opened it and started reading, she had scanned the 1851 census for Bedminster Bristol but no Marks family that belonged to us, she had also scanned the 1861 census and had found ,


Robert Dennis Marke   Head              40 Carpenter    b  West Buckland Som

Harriet                         Wife              40                   b  Church Taunton

Emily                           Daughter      12 Scholar       b  West Buckland  Som

Francis                         Son                8                  b  Devon Uplyme

Samuel                         Son                4                  b Bedminster 

1871 Census Bedminster


Robert Dennis Marks      Head        Marr  50  Carpenter     b West Buckland

Harriet Marks                 Wife         Marr  50                     b Church Tainton

Emily                            Daughter           22 Vest Maker    b West Buckland

Francis                          Son                 19  Carpenter       b Dorset Lyme

Samuel                          Son                 14  White Maker  b Bedminster


So , what we had here was our complete family,….Absolutely Breathtaking!!!!. Where were they in 1851? We would find out much later.Looking back to when I first started searching on the internet I had come across a website run by a Roy Parkhouse who had transcribed  the BMD of St Mary’s church West Buckland and without me knowing I had been looking at the names of many of my ancestors,…truly amazing! Back to the present, we were now on a roll and we instructed our researcher to keep digging which she did.


Meanwhile I was keeping an eye on the Somerset mailing lists where fellow researchers leave the names of  ancestors they are interested in and by chance spotted this request for information wanted on the Marks family West Buckland, my curiosity was aroused so I replied  to this person who was a woman by the name of Jillian who lived in Australia and low and behold after exchanging details we found we were distant cousins, This was something I had not reckoned with and you may imagine how I felt, but more was to come, emails were exchanged on a regular basis and I was put in touch with another distant cousin in Canada  and one in Taunton, Somerset, a little nearer home, these people had been researching their family long before we started so the information that was passed to us was fantastic, along with what our researcher had found only went to back up what we already knew.  That hard struggle to begin with had built up a momentum that was hard to keep up with, from knowing very little of the Marks history we had travelled back to the late sixteen hundreds and found distant cousins to boot. West Buckland we found is a very small parish about six miles outside Taunton and is so unimportant that very little has been written or recorded about it its larger and wealthier neighbour Wellington gets all the attention.


What I have found is that my family were the salt of the earth, no one of any fame just hard working folk as thatchers, shoe makers, yeomen, carpenters, and like my granddad a whip maker, I have had immense fun and learned a great deal and I am sure my son Vince would say the same,  we are still searching , there is no end and every now and then a little bit of the jig saw falls into place such as that 1851 census, it was much later when Vince happened to be browsing the 1851 census and came across our Marks Family in Lyme Regis Dorset  with Edwin their first born who sadly was to die of a fever at 9 years old so never showed up on the later census, I am still searching and I find it is one of the most rewarding hobbies you can have but as Vince would say  YES DAD, BUT YOU WOULD NEVER HAVE DONE IT WITHOUT A COMPUTER!!!! TOUCHE !




© John Marks July 2007































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