LOGGING IN to renew my library books I noticed a link to a wonderful online resource that Wakefield Libraries have recently made available; access to the British Library’s digital archive of nineteenth century newspapers.
I tried a few names from my mum’s side of the family – the Swifts of Sheffield – and soon found this notice from the births, deaths and marriages column of the Sheffield & Rotherham Independent dated 18 November 1862.
Could my great great great grandfather really have been ‘present at the Battle of Trafalgar’ on 21 October 1805?
I’ve put in a request for the death certificate to check that this really is ‘our’ William Swift. We already knew that he’d worked at Joseph Rodgers from an obituary notice for his son, Samuel Burgin Swift, who followed in his footsteps there (as did his grandson).
My mum has the article, reprinted as a handbill;
‘he [Samuel] was a thoughtful, industrious workman, and inherited the skill of his father “Billy Swift”.
It seems to me unlikely that a young man from landlocked Sheffield would have served in the Battle of Trafalgar but Geoffrey Tweedale, author of A Directory of Sheffield Cutlery Manufacturers, 1742-2010, tells me; ‘Being at Trafalgar is not so strange — he lived a long life and his earlier career could have included military service. I’ve come across at least a couple of cutlers/silver platers who saw action during the Napoleonic War.’
I still have this 1957 Ladybird book, a Christmas gift from our neighbours, Mr & Mrs Hudson.
Could that be my ancestor, hoisting the signal flags in the background?