Wallingford Crooks

Newbury Branch meeting Wed 14th December 2016

Speaker: Margaret Crook

Margaret began research into her husband’s family in pre-internet days, when family historians were accustomed to travel to a variety of archives and trawl through many unindexed lists. Searching not only Anglican but also nonconformist parish registers, censuses (at this stage even the 1891 census had not been published), wills and GRO certificates she uncovered mysteries of late baptism, several infant deaths, and a suicide. She recorded all instances of the name Crook that she could trace in Wallingford and surrounding parishes, and then set about linking them together on her family tree. Newspaper reports filled in many details, but several pieces of the jigsaw remained missing.

         There was however, an annual publication called the Genealogical Research Directory, which listed contributors’ name interests for a fee. Through this Margaret was contacted by a Ross Crook in Australia who was descended from a transportee, Charles Crook. His crime of 1825 seemed relatively trivial – the theft of one shilling – but Margaret’s research found it to have been but the latest in a string of offences, for which Charles was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. He spent time in Reading Gaol followed by 18 months aboard the former Napoleonic warship Euryalus, by then a prison hulk, before the 135-day voyage to Australia.

         She noted that, aged 16 when he was transported in 1826, Charles Crook stood at half an inch short of five-foot tall. On obtaining his ticket of freedom in 1832 his height was recorded as five foot eight and a half. Like most transportees, Charles Crook did not return, but found a trade in Australia, married and his family prospered.

         Through further research, now internet-enabled, Margaret was eventually able to place Charles Crook in her family tree, finding that Ross and her husband shared a common ancestor from the early nineteenth-century. In 2006 the Crooks went to Australia to meet cousin Ross.

         Margaret recommended http://trove.nla.gov.au/ as an invaluable site for Australian genealogy.

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