Dr Robert Stansfield presented “A Tale of Two Families: The Stansfields of Walsden and the Cudworths of Spotland” at Todmorden Antiquarian Society’s last speaker meeting of the season.
He has traced his own ancestors back over hundreds of years.
His talk concentrated on details of his 17th and 18th century forefathers living in neighbouring communities on the moorland hills above present day Walsden.
These were the former Cudworth family of Trough then in Spotland, Rochdale and the Stansfield family of Inchfield then in Lancashire.
From 1538 each local parish was responsible for registering baptisms, marriages and deaths.
Robert stated that the documentary evidence was not comprehensive and records were often lost in those days. He himself pursued a very long paper trail!
He researched historical, genealogical archives, conveyances and wills in his attempt to reconstruct each of his ancestor’s lives.
Few folk made wills in olden times, yet many family issues can be detected from these testaments.
Robert explained that inventories listing the deceased person’s possessions, tools, livestock, cash (or debts!) supply indications of their social and working lifestyle.
Concealed motives for family breakdown might be revealed, such as a squandering son by-passed from any share of the inheritance.
The phraseology used in composing wills could also reflect the personal religious sensibilities. Amusingly, Robert read from one of his Cudworth family wills that if any disputed “those who are quiet...“ Dire warnings if the will should be contested!
Robert continued by referring to the photocopies given us of the detailed chart of the Stansfield and Cudworth families and some of their dwellings such as Dean above Dulesgate, and Higher and Lower Ditches above the decommissioned Ramsden Clough Reservoir.
From these diagrams Todmorden Antiquarians could follow the salient baptisms, marriages and deaths over several generations, with information of their working lives, kinships, farming and inheritance patterns.
Concluding his talk, Robert advised us that the past is the key to the present.
By studying more of our ancestors, we understand more of our own history, our local surrounds and the evolutionary landscape in which we live.
Todmorden Antiquarian Society members will be holding their AGM on Tuesday, May 7, at 7.30 pm in Todmorden Town Hall Court Room.