TIPS FROM THE SHOW by Sara Khan, lead genealogist on Who Do You Think You Are?
Actor Brian Blessed was keen to learn more about his paternal ancestors in the 2014 series. He always believed that the Blessed line was deeply rooted in Yorkshire, and wanted to learn how far back it went.
However, it wasn’t long before his investigations took him back to his 3x great grandfather, Barnabas Blessed, a book binder who actually hailed from London. Digging deeper, he then came across the sad story of Barnabas’s son, Jabez Blessed.
Much of Jabez’s childhood was spent in the notorious St Martinin-the-Fields Workhouse. After leaving he was apprenticed to a master mariner and settled in Brigg, Lincolnshire, just a short distance from the Yorkshire town where Brian was raised.
The first clue about Jabez’s life in poverty was indicated by his baptism record on ancestry.
co.uk which simply gives his place of abode as “workhouse” and his father’s occupation as “pauper”. The Who Do You Think You
Are? team then followed this up by consulting the St Martin-in-the-Fields Workhouse registers, also available on Ancestry as part of its London Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records (1764–1930) collection: bit.ly/anc-londonworkhouse. The site has several workhouse collections covering different parts of the country, as does findmypast.co.uk. If one of your ancestors was in a workhouse, the excellent website workhouses.org.uk has histories of individual institutions.