Having one of the less common English surnames hasn't always been a blessing: at school it earned me a certain amount of childish teasing (and sadly, sometimes still does). Contrary to what the modern spelling suggests it is possibly derived from Old English stumbel: 'dweller by the tree-stump' (according to A Dictionary Of British Surnames by P. H. Reaney (Routledge and Keegan Paul 1958 - 1976, ISBN 0 7100 8106 5) which lists a Gervase atte Stumble of 1296 and a Juliana Stumbel of 1311). I like to think this name referred to an occupation (as with Smith, Cooper, Miller etc) of someone whose livelihood was coppicing woodland: cutting trees down to the stumps in order to harvest the straight, slender wood that re-grows when this is done. Other early spellings of the name include Stumbels and Stumbells.

The first person I heard of researching the family lines was (the late) Mrs Maude Stumbles of Derby: she found my father's name in a telephone directory and wrote to him in 1978 asking for information about his line of the family. My father replied with as much as he knew, which I have drawn on here.

My father Richard Everard Stumbles (10/01/1921 - 21/10/1997) was born and brought up in Salcombe in the South Hams region of Devon. After serving in the RAF during WWII he studied at University College of Wales, Bangor where he met my mother. They set up home in Cardiff, where I and my siblings were born. "Dick" worked for the Forestry Commission who, about 1960, posted him to Llandrindod Wells in (then) Radnorshire where he and my mother remained until he died.

K boots - E Stumbles' advertising sign
Enamelled advertising sign for Stumbles shop, now displayed above entrance to Salcombe maritime museum

Dick's father was Albert Everard Stumbles (or perhaps Everard Albert Stumbles - there seems to have been a family tradition of giving the first son the father's forename as a second name). "E. Stumbles" ran a shop selling shoes and clothing at 74 Fore Street, Salcombe. (According to my mother he expanded into another shop across the road as well.) A query on the newsgroup uk.telecom elicited the reply that the shop was listed in the local telephone directory between 1922 and 1961.

Dick gives his father's birth date as 9th June 1888 and his death as 8th November 1955.

K shoes - E Stumbles wrapping paper
Shop's wrapping paper. Note the telephone number "16"

In his letter to Maude, Dick goes back as far as his grandfather Albert Smith Stumbles. At the time of the 1891 census (available online from the free UK Census Online project at http://www.freecen.org.uk/) Albert seems to have been living at 6 Church Street, Salcombe with his wife Eudora and the 2-year old Albert E (Everard). The census gives his occupation as builder (employer).

Dick writes of Albert:

"I believe that he had a brother Edward and two sisters, all three of whom died fairly young and so far as I know without issue. Albert and Edward started a successful building business in Salcombe, and I think it must have been carried on by my grandfather for some time after Edward died. I do not know whether they were born in Salcombe or moved there; I think that their parents were farmers on Dartmoor and that their mother's maiden name was Smith. A large number of the houses and hotels in Salcombe were built by Albert Stumbles before the first World War. He died around 1930, in Salcombe. Albert had four children of whom the oldest was my father Albert Everard S., born June 9 1888, d.Nov 8 1955. The younger son Percy lived at Torcross where he owned and ran the Slapton Sands Hotel. He died about 1930 leaving 2 sons, of whom the elder, Ewart, was killed during the second World War, without issue. The younger son ... is I believe now living at Moult Farm, Moult Hill, Salcombe, and I think he has two sons. Of Albert's two daughters, Ivy, the elder, married a James Green but had no children and died sometime in the 1960s. The younger, Winifred, married a Theodore Dickenson, by whom she had a daughter, Ruth, and a son, David, then divorced him and married a William Goodrick by whom she had twin girls. Winifred is still alive and living at Devon Court, Bovey Tracey. My father married my mother Mary Jarvis in Salcombe on Sept 21,1911. My sister Winifred Joan was born on May 2 1914, and married Wilfred Spencer in about 1936. They have 4 sons
At the time of writing (1978) Dick's mother Mary had died, and since then his sister (Winifred) and her husband (Wilfred) have died. I asume "great aunt Win" of Bovey Tracey has also died.

Albert and the 2-year old Everard appear in the the 1891 census (available online from the free UK Census Online project at http://www.freecen.org.uk/).


Rather than trying to directly produce family trees from whatever information I possess, I am trying to document such information in a structured way. Years ago I started putting information into a lifelines database. A problem with that is that it requires one to enter pieces of information in the GEDCOM format (a standard devised by the Church of the Latter-Day Saints aka "Mormons") which is intended primarily as a machine-readable and writable format and thus hard for the relatively novice user to work with. Add to the fact that it's a fairly basic console application with a myriad of key-stroke commands and it's a steep learning curve to get up.

Also there are criticisms of the GEDCOM standard that it makes it hard to record evidence first and derive conclusions second. Whatever: I looked around and found GRAMPS, a native Linux application (now also ported to Windows) which makes entering data - complete with sources - relatively straightforward, as is viewing and making connections between data. That's what I'm currently using to store and organise the data from my father's letters, freecen and freebmd transcriptions of census and registry records, and other data. Gramps can readily produce web-based reports: here is its report of my data.

Here's a link to the old version of my family history page, until I get round to expanding this one.
Please note that many of the links on the older page are now broken.