Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, York UK

Family History is an interesting hobby.  We might want to know where our Grandparents' parents were born and if you have a chance to ask your Grandparents in person, then you are so much further ahead.  Even then, they only know, or remember, or have documents that reach to a certain point going back, so you may encounter the end of a branch fairly quickly.   

I began my Family History research about 20 years ago, when I was on maternity leave after having my Alex ~ a computer based pastime which back then was much more challenging!  While we had the WorldWideWeb already and I could access Latter Day Saints information (even going to a local church that had microfilm to look through), it is so much easier now to link things together.  In upgrading a couple of computers and setting it down for a while, I finally resurrected the file by copying from an old PC with a floppy disk and somehow migrating it onto my new laptop.  Then came a new version of Family Tree Maker and finally, connecting it to Ancestry.ca online.   I have been fortunate to find roots dating back to Shetland on my maternal Grandfather's side to about 1760 or so.  Robert Arthur Smith was born in Shetland so it was a pretty easy path to follow to understand his lineage, and also the Shetland Ancestry links are very solid and well documented.

On the paternal Grandparents' side, also easy to navigate, are Mennonite records, while not in Churches, the Birth, Marriage and Death information is kept track of in each family, a Green Book of Names and Dates kept from generation to generation.  I do not have the Green Book of my Oma's but I someday hope to have it or to make a copy of it.

All that having been said, my maternal Grandmother's side was a bit sketchy to me and no one else seemed to know much about it, as she was born in Canada, as was her mother.   Her father, however, had a more exciting birth, being born on board a ship!   A name like Percival George Cooper White was easy to find but then the deciphering of records was very much open to interpretation...as he was noted on Census records with variations of that name ie: Coops.    Old handwriting is sometimes very hard to discern.    At any rate, his name was the key that got me going with research.   

To date, this trip has been very much about tracing back through his wife's lineage though, her name was Louisa Grace Fryers.  I've been fortunate to find one individual who has many records associated with her name, Hannah Bilton.    Hannah Bilton would have been Louisa's Grandmother and she is my 4th Great Grandmother.   We have found where Hannah's parents were married and then where she was Baptized.  The journey began in Stillingfleet (location of her Parents' marriage) and then led us to Riccall, (her Baptism) and then next leg would be to find where Hannah herself was married.

Leaving the countryside we ventured into the heart of Yorkshire, the city of York.  We knew little of it except that there would be a Cathedral that we wished to visit, and that Edward the I would have been here.  If I had done more Historical research, I would have found out that it was a walled City with a rich Medieval history, with Roman underpinnings and  that endured Viking raids, and a Viking rule for some time, and then the Normans established themselves and where the first Anglo-Saxon roots were firmly laid down.

The Cathedral stands on its own and we spent a full morning marveling at it, and then ventured down and around through tiny, bending streets, with buildings bulging out overhead, half timber construction and leaded windows, shop fronts that have seemingly been here since the dawn of time... it is so utterly charming and perfect.  We figured that the next day, we'd hop into our car and go searching for the church where my 4th Great Grandparents were married, knowing it was close by.

This same afternoon though, we ventured up to the outer wall and found a high point to look out over the city, at Clifford's Tower.  We noticed a sign that helped guide your sight through the rooflines and turrets and church towers..and one that said Holy Trinity.  I had noticed a 'Goodramgate' street on the map, but we didn't come across anything interesting while we had been walking about... so we asked a Guide at the tower and they said that there were two Holy Trinity churches and one was Holy Trinity Goodramgate.   He pointed us in the right direction and down we went again, in search of my roots.

All we had to do was look for a tiny gate right in the heart of old York, on Goodramgate Street... and suddenly we were inside a very secluded little churchyard, and a tiny church with a small Norman tower was in front of us.  I recognized it then from having been surfing about on the web, and my heart went into my throat!   This was the place!

For some reason, of heavier importance to me, to find the church where Hannah was married, was more exciting than finding the one where she was Baptized.  1799.  Just say that out loud.  Envision the manner of dress at the time.  Very elegant, skirts with petticoats and bodices with tight waists and ruffled collars..  Envision the method of transportation... certainly horse & buggy.   Picture the houses (much the same as they are today), bustling streets, commerce and trading.  It's easy to do when one is immersed in those very places. 

The church though, is another world, inside its quiet walls, you can really contemplate what it must have been like to be pious and to devote oneself to God and to be married there in the presence of God.  

Holy Trinity Goodramgate is one of the treasures of York, close enough to the Cathedral seemingly for a good spit to reach it, both having sprung up initially in the same era, as Norman buildings, but serving different parishes.   

Once inside, one is taken by the worn floor, dipping in towards the centre of the building, and with various tombstones inlaid into the ground, worn and polished with time.   An unusual arrangement of church boxes, instead of pews, must have been used to designate where families should sit together, and they would have been crowded indeed, what with the big skirts...not to mention the many children that people seemed to have at the time.   My 4th Great Grandmother bore 10 children after having been married there, the first one arriving the very next year, in 1800.  I stood in front of the altar in awe, not because of any grandeur, but because of how beautifully humble it was.

The church is not an operating Church any longer, and is open only for a few hours each day, for visitors.   I was moved to make a donation but didn't want to simply drop a Pound or two into the box ~ I ended up finding a decent sized Canadian bill in my wallet and it left my hands without hesitation.   Perhaps this contribution could help in some small way but I truly wish I could donate thousands, to help with badly needed upgrades and maintenance, in memory of my relatives.

It is lit only by candlelight, and by daylight, which is supported by the addition of one skylight on the North side, shining a beam of light on a sunny day, right onto the Pulpit.   The truly sunny days  can be scarce and they do mention that they close the church early when it is a very dark day.   I think only because of my donation, they allowed me to climb up into the Pulpit, from which I could get some different angles for my photos.   I wandered around for about an hour, finding inspiring nooks and crannies to shoot.

The building itself is sagging badly on one side, the North wall falling outwards and it needs shoring up, as large cracks are apparent from the inside.  It is being monitored by a small level that has been affixed to the wall in one spot.  You can definitely see it sinking into the ground when you view it from outside.

It has some lovely stained glass windows, some of which have been filled in and some have been restored.  

Being able to enter through its gates and stand within its yard and inside its hallowed walls, was indeed a highlight of our visit to the UK, a very special place indeed.