What’s in a Name?

Week #1: Beginnings – 52Ancestors52Weeks Challenge

I am researching deeper into the life of Charles Harry Newland Cutting, my maternal grandfather, as part of the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks project, guided by Amy Johnson Crow.

Charles Harry Newland Cutting!

What a grand name! I wonder where he got these names from? Who was this grandfather of mine, a man I had never met? He may have been someone I visited as a small child back in England in the late 1940s; but I don’t remember him at all. What did he look like? Was he a gruff, bearded fellow with a portly figure? What was he interested in? What was his occupation? Who were his family and how did they live?

I need to start with what I knew and build up an identity for him as I researched and uncovered his special story. Every ancestor has revealed a story for me – a picture of the past – enabling me to find out a little more about me. So I am keen to find the hidden gems about grandfather Charles and what his life was like as a small boy, a young man, a father and a breadwinner.

All successful family history research begins with a Research Plan: start with a question of what you want to discover and use your research skills on the Internet to find answers. My family tree was my starting point today, a jumping off point to research more about this ancestor. I store the tree in Ancestry.com.au and update it when I am focussed on family history. 


‘What were the beginnings for Charles H. N.’?

‘Where did he get the names Harry and Newland from?’

The UK Census for 1881 was the first point on my itinerary, and in this document I uncovered a few interesting facts about his family living in Kensington. The transcript of the census listed the household members at 290 Portobello Road, East Side, as Elizabeth Mead 74, Sarah Cutting 47, Charles Cutting 45, Frank J. Cutting 11, Charles H. Cutting 9, and Sidney H. Cutting 7.

As I unpacked this information, I focussed on individual facts and branched out from each one. First, their residential address in Portobello Road sparked my interest. This location has featured in my social history lessons about England; it is the home to Portobello Road Market, one of London’s notable street markets, known for its second-hand clothes and antiques.

Using Google, I searched for this address and discovered that it is now The Cloth Shop, a family owned business, and they now stock its shelves with antique linens, vintage quilts and antique glass vessels. Their website provided wonderful photos of the premises as it looks today, and I saved one of these to add to my collection. I wondered what it was like as the residence for my ancestors back in 1881.

290 Portobello Road, the home of Charles Harry Newland Cutting, now a cloth shop.

Second, I noted that Elizabeth Mead, aged 74, lived with the family. I wondered about her relationship to Charles and viewed the archived copy of the Census to reveal that fact. It listed her as Mother-in-Law and her birthplace as Wiltshire! Okay, further pieces of the puzzle now jumped into place; she was my maternal great grandmother; the mother of Sarah Cutting. If she was 74 in 1881, then her birth year was 1807. These facts enable me to verify her records later. The 1881 census lists Charles Harry Cutting as my great grandfather; a Carpenter, born in Hampshire.

It was tempting to follow these leads and investigate this earlier generation immediately; however, I knew how important it is to avoid taking research too far too quickly. I needed to remain focussed on Charles Harry Newland Cutting. 

The Baptism record for Charles H. N. recorded his name as Charles Henry and his father as Charles Henry as well. They listed Sarah Cutting as his mother; this tallied with my records so far. Curiously, I wondered about the validity of the name Harry at this point. Was it just used in later records as a popular nickname for Henry? And was Henry the actual middle name for my grandfather?

Life for Charles H. N. as a small boy living in Kensington, London; especially in the Portobello Road, would have been colourful. Especially on Saturdays, when the Portobello Market was on. Some research on Portobello Road linked me to images of what it has looked like and what treasures it has provided for the shoppers for over 150 years.

Portobello Road keeps much of that magic, mystery and romance today. Most famous for its half-mile-long antique market (the largest in the world), they transform the street every Saturday into a glittering treasure arcade.

Modern day reference to the Acklam Village Market in my research, also piqued my interest. The word Acklam stood out for me; they listed it as the address for Charles H. N. on his Baptismal record for November 26, 1871. The Baptism record listed the residence as 156 Acklam Road, and his father as a Carpenter and Joiner. A little more research, was required to find details of this early residence in the 1871 census. For this I needed to go to the records for his father Charles Harry and locate the family; the small family unit were listed as living at Ackland Road, but the census did not mention the house number. Looking at the census pages either side of that one, I could see another young Cutting family just two houses away. The head of that household was James Cutting, another Carpenter by trade, and his family – his wife Amelia and son James, just 3 years old. In fact in that road, there were several trades people; including Carpenters, Painters, Shop owners and Railway Guards.

Next question! What was family life like in this era for the tradesmen in Kensington?

To answer that question I explored Twile.com – a very useful site that creates a timeline for your family tree, based on the era and the location. From that timeline I realized that the electric light bulb had not yet been invented; this happened in 1879 – so I imagined the house that the Cutting families lived in the early 1870’s were dark and they would have to use gas lamps or candles to light their rooms. So some further historical research to find out more about the houses my ancestors lived in.

The houses were cheap, most had between two and four rooms – one or two rooms downstairs, and one or two rooms upstairs, but Victorian families were big with perhaps four or five children. There was no water, and no toilet. A whole street (sometimes more) would have to share a couple of toilets and a pump.

National Archives

Charles was one of four brothers; that I know from their birth and baptismal records, stored in the records for their mother Sarah Ann Newland. His older brothers, twins Francis James and Harry Newland and a younger brother Sidney Harry. Harry Newland died as a young boy of 4, but the other brothers lived well into their seventies or eighties. From this I deduce that the three brothers were healthy and well nourished!

Next Research questions! Where did the boys go to school? Where did they learn their trades?

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