Monday, 23 December 2013

A Eureka Moment!

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has puzzled in my family history research over certain individuals who seem to appear from nowhere: - death or marriage records for individuals for whom there appears to be no corresponding earlier census or birth records.   Sometimes it may be that they were out of the country, sometimes they previously used a different given name or put the names in a different order, but more often than not it transpires that they previously used a different surname.  Finding the original surname sometimes requires quite a bit of detective work, and just recently that detective work paid off in grand style! I was delighted to make a breakthrough in my CLOSE one-name study researches when I discovered that a whole batch of unidentified 20th century CLOSEs were previously known as KLOSZ. 

Several KLOSZ brothers came to London in the early 19th century from Prussia, and established bakery and grocery businesses.  Another branch ran a drapery business in the Midlands.  Their descendants retained the surname KLOSZ until 1914, when suddenly but not unsurprisingly it became inadvisable to have a German surname.  For example Hubert J KLOSZ married Louise D ELLIS under that name in Willesden in 1913, but their children, born 1915 and 1920, were registered as CLOSE, and the couple's deaths in 1945 and 1965 are also registered as CLOSE.

I'm having to do even more detective work to find the various branches of the KLOSZ family on every census, since a name which is unfamiliar to enumerators and indexers tends to be recorded and/or transcribed in many different ways: KLOSY, KLOSS, KLASZ ...  Good exercise for the little grey cells!

Friday, 18 October 2013

The silent film star and a strange coincidence

Today my husband Alan and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary, and in the context of our respective one-name studies I am particularly reminded today of a strange coincidence which we came across some time ago, concerning Ivy CLOSE (1890-1968).

Ivy Lilian CLOSE was born on 15 June 1890 in Stockton on Tees, County Durham, the daughter of watch maker and jeweller John Robert CLOSE (1867-1936) and his wife Emma BLACKBURN (1868-1927).  In the 1911 census she described herself as a vocalist, the Daily Mirror awarded her the title of “Most beautiful woman in the world”, but in her 20s she became much better known as a popular actress in silent films.

My husband is studying the surname NEAME, and I am researching CLOSE.  Imagine our surprise, then, when we discovered a marriage between a NEAME and a CLOSE, neither of whom, as far as we know, was related to us.  Not only that, but it was a marriage between two people who have made a significant impact on the world of entertainment.

We discovered that Ivy CLOSE married Stuart Elwin NEAME (1885-1923) on Boxing Day 1910 at St Mary, Finchley.  In his early days, Elwin NEAME was a press and private photographer, but he later became a film director.  Elwin and Ivy had two sons, Ronald (1911-2010) and Derek (1915-1979), both of whom also became film directors and screenwriters.  Not only that, but Ronald’s son Christopher (1942-2011) followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather,  producing many successful films and TV series. 

Today the baton has been passed to a 4th generation. In a recent episode of Downton Abbey  one of the characters referred to a film starring Ivy CLOSE.  I wonder how many viewers realised that she was the great-grandmother of the series’ executive producer, Gareth NEAME (b.1967)?

Monday, 3 June 2013

Exciting developments in my CLOSE one-name study!

I'm deviating from my usual practice of focusing on one CLOSE individual today to record some of the exciting recent developments in my one-name study.

First of all, I've had a number of very interesting email exchanges with Karen Close Goodman in the USA who has spent many years researching the family of Goodman John CLOSE who emigrated with his family from Swaledale to Fairfield, Connecticut about 1640.  Karen has not only recorded the genealogy of several thousand descendants of this John CLOSE in the USA, but has collected an amazing amount of background information about the individuals and the places where they lived.  It makes fascinating reading, and will take some time to digest the enormous amount of detail!  Thank you for sharing this with me, Karen!

A second, but not entirely unrelated, development is the progress recently made with the CLOSE Y-DNA project - details can be found at
I'm in contact with the project co-ordinator Catherine Close, and also with a number of male CLOSEs who have either already taken or are about to take a Y-DNA test.  Y-DNA follows the male line, and therefore tends to be transmitted with a surname (although 'non-paternal events' can lead to unexpected results, of course).  We currently have a number of participants in the USA, including at least two who are believed to be descended from the above-mentioned Goodman John CLOSE of Swaledale and Fairfield, Connecticut; we are now looking to obtain some results from a Swaledale descendant in the UK to see if there is a match with the American ones. 

DNA image courtesy of sheelamohan at
So what next?  There are many CLOSE family lines which are as yet unconnected.  I'd really like to persuade male CLOSEs descended from long-established families in 'hotspots' for the surname, such as Collyweston (Northamptonshire) and Minchinhampton (Gloucestershire) as well as Swaledale, to take the Y-DNA test.  There are some CLOSS families which may have originally been CLOSE - so males from those families would also be good candidates for testing.  If you or someone you know could help, please get in touch.  Contact details can be found here: .

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

The multi-talented Hezekiah CLOSE 13.1.1885 – 20.6.1950

I'm grateful to Ian Johnson for the following account of his grandfather (and my 2nd cousin once removed), and look forward with interest to the day when Ian publishes the full biography.

Hezekiah Close 1885-1950
Hezekiah was born in the mining & cotton mill town of Leigh in South Lancashire, a town in previous agricultural times noted for its excellent Leigh `Toaster` Cheese.  He was the fourth child and only surviving son of coal miner Melchizedeck Close and cotton weaver Jennet Jamesey Porteous. His CLOSE family origins go back from Leigh via Westhoughton, Pemberton, Orrell and the Shevington areas of Lancashire then back in the 1790`s to the Grinton area of Swaledale in Yorkshire where Hezekiah`s 2x Great Grandparents James CLOSE and Ann (Nanny) Harker married just prior to them `emigrating` to the Wigan area of Lancashire.  The reason for the move is not known but more than likely could have been the running down of the lead mining industry in the Swaledale area with the increase in the coal mining industry in Lancashire offering a more secure future.
As a young child Hezekiah attended the local Methodist School and showed an aptitude early on for music as well as demonstrating an interest in all things mechanical, both of which would serve him well in his future working life. He was also a keen footballer, playing for two local sides in Leigh. Two team photographs have survived showing him as a teenager representing Bedford White Star FC in the 1899/1900 season and Leigh Villa FC in 1900/1901 season.
He was the first of his known CLOSE family male line to deviate from being a miner (either lead or coal) but whether this was influenced by the death of his grandfather William CLOSE at Albert Colliery, Westhoughton in a fall down the pit shaft in 1854 can only be speculated upon. On leaving school at age 12 he was apprenticed in 1897 to a local foundry which specialised in the manufacture of farming implements and he eventually learned his trade as a mechanic. He combined the work of a mechanic in the foundry during the day with that of a musician playing in local theatres and brass bands during the evening and weekends. He was certainly  strongly endowed with the work ethic.
In 1905 he was playing in the orchestra of the Leigh Theatre and was part of the Glazebury Prize Band that played at the civic opening of Leigh`s new Town Hall in 1907,  also performing in the orchestra at the new Leigh Grand Theatre and Hippodrome which opened in 1908. 
He became proficient enough both as a mechanic and a musician to acquire sufficient capital to set up in his own business in the first decade of the 20th century with a shop and workshop in premises on Railway Road, Leigh. Marriage followed in 1908 to Louisa Shuttleworth at Hezekiah`s Methodist church in Leigh with a second ceremony being performed a year later at Louisa`s RC church in Bedford, Leigh. Louisa was to play a full part in Hezekiah`s business whilst bringing up their three children. The business of servicing farming implements and vehicles, motorcars and motorcycles as well as selling motor cycles prospered until the onset of WW1 when Hezekiah was seconded in a reserved occupation to the war effort as a mechanic in civilian war work being based in London, only returning home on a monthly basis.
After the end of WW1 he re-joined his business which had been kept going in a reduced capacity by Louisa and one employee. Hezekiah was an avid motor cycle enthusiast having a motor cycle and sidecar in 1910 which enabled him to take his young family out on regular Sunday trips. The business continued to prosper and in 1922 Hezekiah designed his own marque of motor cycle named the HCL (Hezekiah Close of Leigh). Again fortune has looked down as far as family history research goes in that a sales leaflet for the HCL survives from 1922 which includes a photograph of the motor cycle that bears his initials complete with a full technical specification as well as blueprints.
Unfortunately only six of the HCL motorcycles were manufactured by Hezekiah before a local company whose fleet of vans he had contracted to service went bankrupt, owing him the then princely sum of over £800. He was unable to recover from this financial blow and had to close down his business, but in a couple of years he had worked hard enough as a professional musician to pay off any creditors and start again as a publican in a mining area of Leigh in a public house called the Spring View Inn (which he kept until his death in 1950).  By now he and his wife Louisa had a family of three girls Ena, Ivy & Louie – the latter being my mother.
As a musician he had a varied career which took him abroad for the first time in 1929 to Spain where he performed at the “International Exhibition of Barcelona” and on one occasion performed before King Ferdinand of Spain, again fortunately a photograph survives of this event. A second journey abroad came in 1931 with a trip touring Canada performing with the World Champion Brass Band, St. Hilda`s, culminating with the band performing at the Vancouver Exhibition. His commemorative medal for partaking in the exhibition has survived.
A feature of the St. Hilda’s concerts included Hezekiah`s soloist performances on the xylophone and the glockenspiel with his speciality piece called “The Two Imps”. In addition to his Brass Band career he played in orchestras in various theatres around Britain including summer seasons at Colwyn Bay, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Nottingham, Derby, Dundee, London, Wigan and Liverpool to name a few.

He also combined seasonal theatre work with spells touring in theatre company revues (musicals of their day) and the traditional pantomimes at venues around Britain as well as abroad. Perhaps the most notable of the revues performed by the musical companies he was involved with was the revue “No No Nannette”.  Many photographs and documents (contracts etc.) relating to his musical work have survived which serve to add a great deal of depth and colour to his life story.
From the early 1930`s  he had owned a car which was a rarity in the area he lived in although it was necessary for him to be able to attend the theatre and return home long after public transport had ceased for the night. His last position in the theatre was with the orchestra of The Royal Court Theatre in Warrington where he played from 1935 until the evening before his death in July 1950. A stark contrast could be seen in the public house as he prepared to leave home for work and chatted to black faced miners in their working attire whilst he was dressed in an evening suit complete with silk scarf, silk top hat, expensive Crombie overcoat, silver topped cane and grey spats covering his black patent leather shoes - his sartorial elegance standing out as he made his way out amongst the regular public house clientele.
It was not only the difference in clothes that set Hezekiah aside from his public house customers as his working life had been far more interesting, varied and exciting than theirs and that of his CLOSE ancestors. Despite his many friendships with the stars of the stage, who often stayed as guests at the public house, he remained a working engineer at heart as well as a humble drummer.
He was the last male of my CLOSE ancestors with his middle daughter Ivy, my aunt, being the last of the line to die in 2009 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa at the age of 95. Although I was only eight and a half years old when he died, due to my living with him at the public house I retain many happy memories of a talented and loving grandfather and soon hope to do justice to his life by completing a biography of him.
 Ian Johnson

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Thoughts on Boat Race Day

On the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race day I am reminded of an illustrious family of CLOSEs who were very much involved in the Cambridge rowing scene in the 1870s, at least one of them taking part in every race between 1871 and 1877. 

The winning Cambridge crew in 1871 included John Brooks CLOSE (1850-1914) – later known as John B CLOSE-BROOKS. Cambridge triumphed again in 1872 when both John and his younger brother James Brooks CLOSE (1851-1910) were in the crew.  James retained the bow seat in the 1873 race, the year in which he was also President, and rowed at 3 in 1874.

In 1875 their younger brother William Brooks CLOSE (1853-1923) rowed for Cambridge – suffering their first defeat of the decade, but he enjoyed victory as a member of the 1876 crew, and also rowed in the famous dead-heat of 1877. For an account of what William did in later life, have a look at  and

The 1877 race didn’t mean the end of the CLOSE association with the light blues, since James coached many Cambridge crews and was an influential figure in Cambridge rowing for some years.  Quite a family!

Friday, 8 March 2013

Thomas Cameron Close of Middlesbrough

No hiding place in 1876 - even in Australia!

Thomas Cameron Close was the Borough Accountant for Middlesbrough Borough Council during the 1860s and early 1870s. He was married, and had 5 children born between 1862 and 1872. A number of discrepancies in the accounts were identified in December 1875, and Close was suspended from his duties.  A London firm of accountants was called in, and they found evidence of false accounting, fraud and forgery, concluding that a total of £2,403 18s 9d was missing.

Pursued by a dedicated police officer 

In early January 1876 it was reported that Close had 'disappeared', and enquiries established that he and his family had sailed from the Thames in the Highflyer, a sailing ship bound for Australia. The Middlesbrough police were alerted, and Sgt. William Ashe (who was married, with two young daughters) was despatched by the Suez mail steamer in mid-February with an arrest warrant.  Being on a much faster vessel, Sgt. Ashe had hoped to reach Melbourne before Close.  However, a smallpox outbreak on board caused a 10-day delay at Point de Galle (modern-day Sri Lanka).

The Melbourne police had been alerted by telegraph to look out for Close and his family, and they were easily identified, even though they were travelling under the name of Gascoigne.  Two detectives were assigned to 'shepherd' Close until Sgt. Ashe arrived with the arrest warrant, which they successfully did without arousing his suspicions.

Melbourne: arrest of Close, generosity to the family

Sgt. Ashe found Thomas Cameron Close standing on Sandridge Pier, and although he at first insisted his name was Gascoigne, he subsequently admitted he was the former Borough Accountant of Middlesbrough and was jailed pending the issue of the governor's extradition order.  Thomas Cameron Close's wife Jane, two sons and three daughters were left to fend for themselves in Melbourne, and the Argus printed an appeal for funds to pay their fares back to England on the Hampshire - the ship in which the arrested embezzler was due to travel back with the intrepid Sgt. Ashe.  Over £134 was raised, and the grateful Close family was able to return to England, landing in Gravesend on 11 August 1876.  In all, Sgt. Ashe was away from his wife and family for five months on this assignment - now that's real dedication to duty! 

Brought to justice

The progress of the Hampshire and the ultimate return of the prisoner to Middlesbrough was reported in great detail in the British press, as was Close's trial for embezzlement and forgery in December 1876, and its eventual outcome - a guilty verdict reached by the jury in just 5 minutes.  Thomas Cameron Close was sentenced to five years' penal servitude.

Following Thomas Cameron Close's release from prison, he appeared with his wife and family once again in the 1881 census, and in the first quarter of 1882 his 6th and last daughter was born.  In both 1881 and 1891 he was still living in Middlesbrough and still described his occupation as 'accountant' - yet one has to wonder who would be willing to entrust their financial affairs into his hands after the events of 1875/6, which were undoubtedly common knowledge throughout the town.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Making a fresh start down under

I'm aiming to include here some stories I've come across in the course of my CLOSE one-name study, and to start off, here's a brief history of John CLOSE of Bourne, Lincolnshire, who made a bad start in life but seems to have done pretty well for himself in the end! 

born           1816                  Bourne, Lincolnshire
married      16 Nov 1835     Esther SMITH,  Bourne, Lincs
married      21 Jul 1848       Sophia SMALL, Camden, NSW
died            19 Apr 1873     Bob's Range, Camden, NSW  

John Close, labourer, of Bourne, Lincolnshire, was tried at the Kesteven Sessions, Bourne, on 3 April 1838, aged 23. [England & Wales Criminal Registers, 1838, County of Lincoln, F559] He was accused of three offences: 
  • stealing one earthen pancheon, the property of John Phillips 
    [listedwebassets/JCBourneItems.GIF in 1841 as a grocer] of Bourne;
  • breaking and entering the shop of William Watson of Bourne and stealing 5 loaves of bread, a pound's weight each of cheese, tobacco, tea, sugar, candles, "and other articles";
  • stealing 13 fowls, the property of John Osborn  [Probably the farmer living at Austerby, Bourne, in 1841]
and convicted of "burglary, simple"  [ England & Wales Criminal Registers, 1838, County of Lincoln, F559] . He was sentenced to 10 years' transportation.

webassets/prisoner.GIFHe was held awaiting transportation in the prison hulk Ganymede [prison hulk: a decommissioned ship used as a floating prison - see]. This was originally the French frigate Hébé, captured in 1809, converted into a prison hulk in 1819 and broken up shortly after John was moved on in 1838. The Ganymede hulk records state that John was "received from the gaol at Lincoln on 3 May 1838, having been convicted of stealing soap, candles etc.".  It was noted that he was a labourer, had a wife and one child, and could read, although there was no indication that he could write.  The 'gaoler's report' describes him as having been "several times convicted of poaching, character very bad, connections very indifferent."

It is believed that John's wife, Esther, died [GRO Death Index 1838 Q3 Bourn 14 163 - Esther CLOSE] while he was awaiting transportation. The child was possibly Louisa CLOSE, b 1835, recorded in the 1841 census [HO107/615/21 F47 P35]  living with William and Ann SMITH and family, who may have been Esther's parents. 

John was transported to New South Wales on the convict ship John Barry, which set sail on
12 November 1838. [Australian Convict Transportation Register 1837-1838 HO11/11 F192]  It was a 520-ton sailing ship, on its 4th voyage as a convict transport, captained by Mr John Robson.  It arrived at Sydney Cove, NSW (located between the present-day Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge) on 22 March 1839.
Things seem to have looked up once he reached Australia.  Convicts who stayed out of trouble could be eligible for Tickets of Leave, similar to today's parole or probation arrangements. John received a ticket of leave [44/1134 and 45/1396] to remain in the Camden district of New South Wales.  

webassets/NSW.GIFOn 21 July 1848, at the age of 32, having completed his 10-year sentence, he married 16-year-old Sophia SMALL at St John's, Camden, New South Wales, who presented him over the next 22 years with 11 children, 10 of whom survived into adulthood and married.  As a result John and his descendants have made a substantial contribution to the population of New South Wales. 

John died on 19 April 1873 at Bob's Range, Camden, New South Wales, aged 57.  The CLOSE one-name study has records of 127 of John's descendants in Australia named CLOSE - and his five daughters and many granddaughters added even more branches bearing other surnames to the family tree.
John's wife Sophia lived to the grand old age of 89, and when she died in 1920, her obituary [Obituaries Australia -] mentioned her origins (born in Sussex, emigrated as a child) but was understandably silent about her husband's early life, saying only "Both were very highly respected residents."  So it seems he turned out well in the end!


Saturday, 16 February 2013

Here's a brief report on how far this CLOSE one-name study has progressed so far.  England & Wales data collection so far includes complete census data from 1841, 1851, 1871, 1891, 1901 and 1911, and BMDs 1837-1950.  I also have almost 3,000 England & Wales christenings, over 700 pre-1837  marriages and around 300 burials in my database.

When it comes to the rest of the world, my collection looks much more sparse, compared to the amount of information out there.  Co-researchers in other parts of the world - particularly the USA, Australia and New Zealand - are urgently needed!  Let's crack this together!

It's my intention to post here not just statistical information, but some stories about notable CLOSEs from various locations and historical periods. Pictured here is James CLOSE (1900-1971) of Horwich, Lancashire. If there's someone you think deserves a mention, then do let me know!

Have a look at my Guild of One-Name Studies profile page here: