The "Norasearch" Diary - by Andrew Conway

Friday 21 May 1999

I call on Kim, my sister, at her office to collect some disks. Whenever we meet now she wants to know what I've unearthed, so I rave to her about the discovery of the Kelly's Directories, which she's never considered in her own genealogical research. She's the only one who really understands how addictive all of this is, having spent the last few years tracing the Conway family back to the Irish potato famine.

Despite the potential of Kelly's, it feels like I've reached the end of it now. I can go backwards and fill in the details on Robert and Amy, but I can't get any further forward after 1912 and track Honora, which was the whole point of this. I wonder now whether it isn't just fuelling itself, driving me on and on regardless of any sort of usefulness it might have for anyone else.

I spend Friday evening in the Green Room with a group of friends: my favourite bar and third home. It used to be my second home, till this Norasearch began. I'm starting to feel a slight unease with the usual acquaintances, bored of the common topics of conversation, half of my mind ruminating on events of ninety years ago, events that are nothing to do with me or my life but which encroach on everything I do, think and feel. I end up talking to Danny because he's the only one present who knows about all of this, the only one there I can tell it to. I update him on everything I've uncovered on the Parkers, which is a huge amount now because the last he heard was our trip to locate 12 Alcester Road. He's impressed that it's possible to find out so much from the archives in our library and asks if I'm considering making any money out of it myself, rather than handing all my research over to someone else. I have been wondering if there might be an article in it, but I need to find out more and, most importantly, get some photos. He suggests two things:

1. Try to find out which local Moseley photographers were in existence in 1907, as such a comfortable middle-class family would have had a portrait taken, and that photographer's collection might now be in a local archive.

2. Write to the Institute of Chartered Accountants for info on Robert (when graduated, etc) and see if there are some old photos of Midlands branch meetings and the like.

They're two great ideas that could really breathe life into it, but the real grail remains a photo of Honora, and the possibility of that is receding.

23 May 1999

Me and Danny spend Saturday night at Mark's new Kings Heath house, just off the Alcester Road, just beyond Moseley. Danny offers me a lift back in the morning and, on the way, asks if I've taken a look at the Strensham Road house yet. I say no, so he veers off Alcester Road and down the back streets.

Click the pictures below for an
enlargement in a new window.

There it is, sitting aloof on the corner of Strensham Road, as if it has aspirations to be elsewhere, a large, detached Victorian house with three floors.
Most of the original architectural features are still there, but there is a huge carbuncle in the shape of a bay window that someone has tacked on (my knowledge of architecture is very limited, but I even I spot that one).
It doesn't seem to have a garden as the rear is taken up with garages, but I think these were added recently as I seem to remember the old Ordnance Survey map showing a garden at the rear.
The instant impression you get is that the Parkers were moving up in the world, despite the fact that it was, in effect, a move from the more prestigious Moseley to the less respectable Balsall Heath. But it all turned to tragedy not two years later with Robert's early death. Sad.


The research carries on, of course. These are the tasks I've set myself:

Rwp's Death Certificate
This will give us the cause of death.

All Saint's Hospital
Formerly the City Asylum. I could approach them to see if they still have their old records and would grant me access.

Robert and Amy's Marriage Certificate
This might prove useful. It could provide a clue to Robert's birthplace (thus confirming which one in the records is our man) and family background. But it will also give a better picture of Amy's background, and knowing more about her family might tell me where she went in 1913.

Photo Archives
Kelly's Directory has already provided me with a list of all the photographers operating in 1907 on the Moseley Road and nearest to Robert's office addresses in the city. I intend to enquire as to how many of them have collections now available in the local photographic archives. It is highly likely that a respectable chartered accountant and his family would have had a portrait taken at some point, especially after the birth of their daughter. I doubt if we'll ever get a picture of Honora as a teenager or young woman. I suspect the only person in the world in possession of such a thing is Wendy Parker.

Institute Of Chartered Surveyors
They might have records on Robert's career and academic record, as well as old photographs of regional meetings/gatherings.

Current Occupants of 41 Church Street
The whole building is now owned by a firm of solicitors. I will write to them to enquire if they possess any old records relating to the history of the building or old photographs.

Emigration Records
A long shot as I think Birmingham Library only has passenger lists for American-bound voyages.

Census Records
It has just struck me that the 1901 Census will be released in two years' time, and will contain information on the 'Robert Parker' living at 262 Victoria Road, Aston. This would settle the question of whether it is Robert William Parker or not (I personally believe it must be), and might give us further information on him (it will list everyone present at the address, their age, profession, birthplace, marital status and relationship to head of household). The 1891 Census is already available, but the first Birmingham reference I have for Robert is 1894. If I can get an earlier address for him somehow, it might prove useful. Likewise for Amy and her Blakemore family.

Copyright © 1999 Andrew Conway. All Rights Reserved.