Quest for the family tree

Captured in an evocative image by Dennis Anderson, England's North-East coastline is dominated here by the twin piers guarding the entrance to the fishing port of North Shields, where most of this Anderson family history is focussed. But the research which has so far taken the family story back to the early years of the 18th Century in the reign of King George II begins nearly 100 miles further south on the North Yorkshire coast. Here, in another fishing village, in the same county and in the same year in which the great navigator Captain James Cook was born, the Anderson family tree begins with the birth of our earliest traced ancestor, George Anderson, in 1728. The village was Filey. Little is so far known about the family's early days there but George Anderson was married on April 28 1766 - presumably in the 12th Century St Oswald's Church - to Elizabeth Bridekirk, then aged 20. This brought a significant name into the family and Bridekirk was to feature in three later generations. However, little is known about the family's life in North Yorkshire and by the early years of the next century the focus had switched to Tyneside. Before we leave Filey, however, we can learn more about the old days there and even visit St Oswald's Church at the invitation of Bill Lealman, who has created a fascinating website devoted to his home town.

Click here for Filey

The first direct link with the Anderson family's life on Tyneside is traced to John Bridekirk Anderson. He had been born/christened in Filey on January 21 1781 but somehow later found his way northwards and was married to Jane Trewhitt at Christ Church, North Shields, on March 04 1804. For the next century and a half the family history unfolded solidly here, first in the Low Lights area around the busy quayside at the river mouth where the fishing boats unloaded their catches and in later years on the higher land above as the town expanded. The old picture postcard shown here gives a flavour of the quayside activity around the Low Lights lighthouse and is reproduced by courtesy of Paul Whitelaw. An invitation to visit a website full of the colourful history and images of the harbour where much of the Anderson story is set is extended by Frank Gillings of Tynemouth and a link can be found below. The Anderson family included boatbuilders, mariners and shipwrights among their numbers, one of the latter being George Anderson (1837-1916), pictured here with his wife Alice (1847-1882). They look content enough with their life in their "Sunday best" but tragedy was to strike in later years when they lost three of their children within 26 months, aged between two and eight. George's elder brother John (1836-1919) was perhaps the most influential member of the family so far traced. He set up a steam tug-owning partnership in North Shields with Robert Chater circa 1867 and in 150 Years of the Maltese Cross, his monumental work on the history of North-East Coast tug companies, John H Proud records how other Andersons - Dorothy, Thomas and GR (believed to be George Rochester) owned shares in the tugs as well as John Anderson and his partner. The fleet included the well-remembered Brothers and Stag as well as Defence, Fiery Dragon and others. And although several members of the family are now to be found in other parts of the country, the Andersons still have a home on the riverside in North Shields. The family also continues to be involved in the business life of the town through Iain Anderson (born 1952), who is managing director of Hogg Engineering Ltd, specialising in industrial pipework fabrications. This firm, still at the original location in Lawson Street, is a spin-off from the firm of James Hogg & Sons, of which his grandfather George (1878-1951) was a director and company secretary.

Drop anchor with Frank Gillings here

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