Answers to Questions


SYMINGTON, Markyate area & St Albans, 19th century

May 2002



St Albans


Roy Purssell, (fireboy54 @t of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, writes: I am trying to trace my father's mother's relatives.  My Father knows very little about his mother's family.  My wife and I recently visited to Saint Albans.  We met Gerard McSweeney who helped us with our search.  He gave us your name.  Here is what I already know.

We found the entry on the Symington family in the 1891 census (after going through 700 pages). The entry is for 31, 32 Market Place, St Albans, is as follows:

Name Relation Marital status Current Age Profession Where Born
Andrew Symington Head M 42 Clothier Leighton Buzzard
Sarah Symington Wife M 43 Hamstead
William Cook Symington Son S 19 Clothier Markyate
Anne Marian Symington Daughter S 11 Scholar Markyate
Herbert Chad Symington Son S 5 St. Albans
Clara Orrin Servant S 24 Domestic Servant Holloway
Laura Inupkin Visitor S 29 Visitor Markyate
Lillian Mabel Symington Daughter S 2 St. Albans

[I have "corrected "Markgate" to "Markyate" I am suspicious that "Inupkin" is a misread.]

We went to the 1881 census (online) and did not find any entries of Symington in England but several in Scotland.  (If Andrew Symington was born in Leighton Buzzard in 1849 his family must have been missed in the census)  Apparently Symington is a Scottish name.  There is a village called Symington near Ayr.  There are also Symingtons living near Glasgow. 

The 1881 census is not legally available online - although many people will do look ups for you. While the name is definitely commoner in Scotland there are many English entries. In particular a pupil at Mr Maull's boarding school at 42 Park Road, Tring, Herts, was William C. Symington, aged 10, born at Markyate Street, Bedfordshire.

In fact the rest of the family also recorded in the 1881 census at Studham, Bedfordshire.- but there has been a common transcription error with the inital "S" being misread as "L"





Leighton Buzzard, Beds





Hill Farm Flamstead, Herts

Edith Florence LYMINGTON




Markyate Street, Beds

Annie Marrion LYMINGTON




Markyate Street, Beds




Gen Serv Domestic

Stopsley, Beds

I spoke to my dad.  Apparently Dad's mother had told him some things about the family.  Dad knew that his mother Lillian Mabel Purssell, nee Symington, was born December 17/1888 and died March 20/1973 at age 85.  Her father was Andrew Symington who owned an outfitters shop on Market Street, Saint Albans and was also mayor of Saint Albans in 1896.  His wife Sarah was Lillian's mother.  She was born in 1847 and died July 14/1913, at age 66 while living at Promenade, Chiswick.  She was buried in Chiswick Cemetery.  She was married at 23 years and the couple celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in 1896.  They had 3 children.  The older brother William attended Dad's wedding on the Isle of Wight.  Herbert Charles, born in 1886, died on September 5/1910 at age 24 after a brief illness, which was consumption (TB).  Lillian was born in 1888 when her mother, Sarah, was 41.  Dad's mother talked little about her brothers, but he does not recall anything that she may have said about her parents.  Sometime before 1906, the Symington moved to the Promenade in Chiswick, where they opened an outfitter shop.

The census returns suggest they had more than three children, and it looks as if William may have been a prompt arrival! Perhaps he was born William Cook before the marriage???

  We have no idea what happened to William Cook and Anne Marian Symington.  I would love to know what happened to them and their descendants. 

It is always easier to go backwards from known events and for a reasonably well-placed family there is a good chance that at least the adult males will have left a will and there will then be an entry in the probate index. A successful search can provides information on the family living at the time (including the married names of daughters and sometimes the names of grandchildren) and also information about the deceased (occupation, address, date of death, etc.). Given the name of an officer who was billeted in Hemel Hempstead in 1914 and who was killed in action in 1917 I was able to track down a living relative in Zimbabwe who in turn gave me the address of a still living daughter in Rickmansworth. I have also had some luck with people with the surname Smith but unusually given names - establishing that the branch I was researching ended up with three spinsters and died out about 40 years ago. It is a simple job for personal callers at First Avenue House - and I know some of the indexes ware available of microfilm or microfiche worldwide - but I am not sure haw much of the 20th century indexes are avail in this way.

I would also like to know if and when the family moved from Scotland. 

There is no evidence from the census of any close link with Scotland. To follow the family back see "How to ..." (particularly "Family Events") or any good guide on researching your British ancestors. Your next step could well involve buying the relevant certificates. There was (and probably still is) a Canadian online genealogy magazine which had extensive articles on researching English ancestors from Canada.

I would like to know something about Andrew Symington.  If he was the mayor, he was likely active in the community.  We checked the newspaper (microfiche) and found only a few references to him.

I have founds a few references on my files as follows


Having secured the services of a First-class Cutter, and an efficient Staff of Tailors, together with all the newest and best appliances and machinery for the superior and economical production of all kinds of GENTLEMEN'S and JUVENILLE CLOTHING, is prepared to execute all orders entrusted to him in the best of style and at the lowest possible price.

A Large Stock of Scotch and West of England Tweeds, Worsted Coatings, Angolas, Meltons, Doeskins, Cords, &c, to select from, kept in Stock.

Advertisment, Herts Advertiser, 5th August, 1882 

On the 7th February, 1891, the Herts Advertiser reported a debate of the St Albans City Council in which Councillor Symington " noticed there was one thing missing in the report, and that was the analysis of various commodities. There had been great complaints about certain things sold in the city. He was told the other day by a professional man that instead of some milk containing 8 to 10 per cent of cream it only contained four per cent, and he though that the quality of the milk supplied would probably account for the large mortality of children. I am sure there will be many other references in council minutes, as reported in the paper. He will also undoubtedly be included in lists of people attending public events, and should be mention frequently during his year a mayor.

August 2002

Roy Purssell, (fireboy54 @t  has written: I would like to tell you some exciting news.

In May I wrote to you with an inquiry regarding my family history.  I wanted to let you know that we just had a very enjoyable meeting with my second cousins and their wives, who to my astonishment have lived their whole life in Vancouver a few blocks away from where we live.  Their names are Ron and Marilyn Moore and Todd and Veronica Moore.  The reason we met was because of you and all of the help that you have given us.

The story of how we got in touch is as follows:

My wife and I visited St. Albans in May of this year.  We knew that my great grandfather had been the mayor of St. Albans in 1896, so we visited the City Council chambers.  We met with the mayor's secretary who gave us advice on places to search for information.  It was her first day at work.  We told her that we were from Vancouver.  One of the places that we visited was the library where we met Gerald McSweeney who was very kind to us and helped us with our search and among many other pieces of helpful advice, gave us the address of your website.  A month later, Ron and Marilyn Moore visited St. Albans.  They visited the council chamber and also met with the mayor's secretary and told her exactly the same story.  The story was that Ron's great grandfather, Andrew Symington had been the mayor of St. Albans in 1896 and he was visiting from Vancouver, Canada and was looking for information on his relatives.  The mayor's secretary told Ron and Marilyn about our visit.  Ron said that he suddenly became very interested in who I was and how he could get in touch with me.  When he arrived back in Vancouver he did a computer search of the name Symington.  One of the hits was a copy of your reply to my email.  The email mentions my name and he then searched my name and found enough information to contact me.  Veronica Moore called me because when Ron first called I was out of town.

My grandmother's sister is Annie Marion Symington.  She married Frederick Marshall Arnold in Chiswick in 1905.  They had three children - Vera, Phyllis, and Charlie Annie left for Canada with her three children after the break-up of the marriage in 1920.  She first moved to Edmonton and then to VancouverRon and Todd are Vera's sons.  We had a great meeting with Ron and Marilyn and Todd and Veronica and we were able to identify many of the people in pictures from their collections that my father got from his mother Lillian.  Ron found that they had postcards from Aunt Lillian to Vera and we plan to set up a meeting with more of the family members.  There are a number of other relatives that live in Vancouver.

We found out that William Cook, my grandfather's brother, was married and had five children.  The children's names are Ina, Elsie, Bill, Stan and KenTodd and Veronica met Stan in 1996, however, when Ron and Marilyn tried to visit him this year, they could not locate him.  Stan has one son, Christopher, married to Christine and a grandson Andrew Symington.  We would very much like to re-establish contact with this branch of the family.

We would like to thank you and Mr. McSweeney for all of your help with our search.  Without your help it would not have been possible for us to make contact.  We are so grateful.  We are so sorry to hear the news about your daughter.

It is wonderful to hear of success stories such as this and I hope you are able to track down the missing Symington branch.

November 2002

Ian Symington (ian.symington @t writes:  I read the message about Roy Purssell and his Symington link in St Albans.  I have lots of  details on this family (I run a Symington family history society).  I have in fact done a tree on this family - which has as one of the family a Johnson Symington. I have much more information if required.

Thanks for your useful contact - which is one of the advantages of being able to post information on the internet. I am sure Roy Purssell will be in touch.

May 2005

Chris Symington (haccombe @t writes: My father was Stanley Clifford Symington, married Constance Ethel May Henton and I am their only Son. Dad was one of 5 children, Ken, Bill, Ina and another I cannot remember. My grandfather was Andrew, Mayor of St Albans etc.  We have 2 children Andrew and Joanna

July 2007

Chris Symington (haccombe @t of Membury, Devon, provides some more information: My Father, Stanley Clifford Symington worked as a clerk for Ryders' seeds for many years and was responsible for opening the letters sent from all over the world requesting packets of seeds, probably the first "mail order" business??  He always collected the stamps from the envelopes which I now have.  They are from all over the world!  Some on envelopes, some first day covers etc.  His Brother-in-Law, Rayrond B Keene was a Director of Ryders and used to publish in daily press on a regular basis "gardening questions" and advice

See RYDER & Son, St Albans, Early 20th Century

May 2010

Penny Fryer (penny.fryups @t from Suffolk wrote: Sarah was my great grandmothers sister (Cook). I cannot find any record of the marriage of Lillian Mabel to Purssell. The Cooks were also involved with the outfitting business, Percy Cook served an apprenticeship with Andrew Symington.

October 2011

Jon Symington (j.symington @t of Norwich writes My Grandfather was William Cook Symington  and my father Kenneth Herbert married Kathleen Joan Whybro - the children being Janet Ann, Alexandra, Paul (who sadly died in 2009) and myself, Jonathan. My parents lived in Cambridge for 35 years from about 1948 having moved from St Albans..

If you can add to the information given above tell me.