When I was at school one of my least favourite subjects was History. The way it was taught was all facts and dates, with very little context. Since researching my family tree I have found connections to historical events which if I had known when at school would have made a huge difference in those boring history lessons. For example, simple things like finding a great uncle who had served in the Machine Gun Corp in the WW1 and died of Cholera in a “Stationary Hospital” in Mesopotamia in June 1918. Unknown to me my father, who was born the following year, had been named after his dead uncle. It set me off researching the Machine Gun Corp, Stationary Hospitals and searching the War Graves Commission site to see if I could locate his grave. I found it in Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery. I doubt I will ever visit the grave but he has not been forgotten (see Fig 3.1).
My Father’s family came from Kingston upon Hull and my paternal grandfather had been an Ice and Fish merchant when Hull was a great fishing port. Again this started me looking into just what was an Ice and Fish merchant. This was in the days before fishmongers shops, restaurants, etc. had their own refrigeration plant. Ice was made in a factory on the Fish Dock and sold to the deep sea trawlers and merchants whom delivered it all over the city. It therefore made sense for the Ice merchants to also deliver the fresh fish from the trawlers. It then made me look at the development of Hull as a port. Hull had reasonably deep tidal water in the River Humber which had supported a small fishing and whaling trade from the 1500’s. When Hull’s first non tidal dock was built in 1779 it was Britain’s largest, but the fish trade was only local as it was impossible to keep the landed fish fresh long enough to transport it to the big city conurbations.
It was the chance coming together of two separate events that turned Hull into a great east coast fishing port. First was the coming of the railway in 1848 allowing the fast transport of fresh fish initially to northern towns, but with the rapid development of railways to the vast markets of the midlands and London. Then in 1850 the accidental discovery of the Silver Pit led to a huge supply of fish. A Scarborough trawler got caught in a bad North Sea storm whilst fishing and lost most of its nets while heading for the safety of the Humber estuary. However, when they hauled the remaining nets they were packed with fish. It was realised that they had travelled over an area about 70 miles off the mouth of the Humber and it contained vast reserves.
These two events led to the rapid expansion of Hull as a fishing port and the arrival of fishing boats and crews from ports all over Britain. (Fig 3.2 Hull Docks 1870). While researching my grandfather’s tree I found a 2 x great grandfather’s marriage to a Kezia Petherbridge, who had been born in Brixham, Devon. Looking into this it seems that in the 1860’s the waters around Brixham were pretty much fished out and many of the Brixham fishermen started moving to ports along the south coast and around to the east coast. Some of the Petherbridge clan had taken up residence in Kent ports but Kezia, who had been crew for her brother, had landed up joining the Hull fishing fleet and consequently married into the family.
While reading up on the Railway coming to Hull, I came across another odd story. Hull’s Paragon Railway station has an extra unused open air platform outside the main station. This platform was built to take eastern European immigrants from ships docking in Hull and load them directly onto trains to take them across the Pennines to Liverpool and ships to America (Fig 3.3 Transmigration waiting room at Hull Paragon). The docks in Hull used to come right into the city centre within a few hundred yards of the railway terminal allowing the immigrants easy access to the trains.
I mentioned in a previous article that a cousin of mine had been adopted and I was reluctant to approach him for fear of upsetting him. When I had researched quite a way into my Mother’s paternal Line, as it was also my cousin’s line, I approached him to show him my finding. Much to my surprise he was very interested and asked me if I could undertake research into his mother, my Aunt by marriage’s, Line. I of course agreed and as she had the unusual maiden name of Zinzan I felt it should not be too difficult. I started off first using the census to find my aunts parents and then her grandparents and with such an unusual name was pretty soon back to the start of modern registration.
Where did I go now? Well an internet search brought up all sorts of things and allowed me to back many generations. I eventually found that all Zinzans’ had come from a single source, one Haniball Zinzano who was born in Modena, Italy in about 1500. It is recorded in royal court documents in the National Archives that Zinzano was a horse handler who came to England about 1519 with a gift of horses from Charles V of Spain for Henry VIII. It appears that he was offer a job working with the horses in the Royal Stables and never returned. He was later described as Hanyball of Modena and appears in “The King’s Book of Payments” for 1519, under the month of August, this segment seems to be to be most relevant:
“To Mons. Gregory, for 18 coursers of Naples, £500.
To Hanyball, a farrier, who came with the said horses 66s 8d.”
A courser is an old name for a swift horse. Zinzano quickly lost the o to become Zinzan and he had a son, Allessandro (anglised to Alexander), who married Ann Norris. One of their sons, Robert, later Sir Robert, had a son Sigismund who was born in 1580. Sigismund and his brother Alexander were supposedly great horsemen and became England’s first professional jousters. Sigismund was an equerry to Queen Elizabeth I in the later days of her reign and went on to serve under King James I where he and his brother were Tilting partners for the Kings sons, Prince Henry and Prince Charles. When Prince Henry died on 6 November 1612 at the age of eighteen, Sigismund Zinzan led a horse trapped with black cloth in the funeral procession.During the years 1608 – 1624 it is recorded that they were each paid £100 per tournament they participated in. I have no idea what £100 is worth in today’s money but it is clearly a fortune. Sigismund was knighted for services to the King.
In 1605 Sigismund had married Margaret (nee Strelley) the widow of Nicholas Brend, the owner of the Globe Theatre. Nicholas was a very wealthy man who amongst other things owned much of Southwark. He left his estate to his and Margaret son Matthew who was under age and could not inherit until he was 21. This made Sigismund the controller of the Globe theatre until Matthew became old enough to inherit. In addition Margaret was left 1/3 of the income from Nicholas’s estates and with his various sources of income Sigismund was clearly a wealthy man. He died, aged about 90 in July 1661 (Fig 3.4 Sigismund Zinzan tree).
Sigismund’s son Henry Zinzan married Jacoba a daughter of Sir Peter Vanlore of Tileshurst, Berkshire. Sir Peter, was a Dutch trader and money lender and was said to be one of England’s wealthiest men, even lending money to the crown. Unfortunately all this wealth has disappeared over the years.
I could write a whole article on the Zinzan family and their trials and tribulations, how Sigismund supported the Parliament in the civil war, how family members held high Office in Scotland and India, how one emigrated to New Zealand in disgrace, but all that is for another day.
As I said at the start of this article, I hated history at school, researching my family history has probably taught me more than I learnt at school. I have found stories of royal connections, great wealth, soldiers, fishermen and not mentioned here village/rural life. I’m happy with having my tree on Ancestry, and using Ancestry as my main research tool. It is a straightforward program to use and the extra records that are being added regularly are too many to mention.
I hope I have encouraged you to start researching your own family history.
© WorthingGooner 2018