This is one of my favourite blogs. Can you write a story in just six words? A writing challenge with a new prompt every week.
Its frustrating when we spend a long time researching an ancestor but are never able to ‘finish’. Sometimes we have a date for the birth but no death, or a death but no baptism. We might have the family on the 1851 census but nothing more til 1891.
We try spelling the surname differently, searching by first name and place of birth, by nicknames, other family members and even by neighbours on other censuses. When all else fails we check prisons, asylums, workhouses and cemeteries.
But sometimes that elusive person wants to remain, well, elusive.
But by nature we are curious (why else did we choose this pastime) and we want to know. No actually, we NEED to know. Really. We put the ancestor away, but revisit him often. Did I check that newspaper? did he go abroad? did I check that? and so on.
I have an ancestor called Louisa, I can’t tell you the hours I have spent looking for her in 1911. I have her in 1901 and I have her on the 1939 register. But what about those years in between? where was she in 1911? who was she with? was she OK? I just don’t know.
Sometimes we just can’t find out. However annoying it is.
I have a postcard from 1909 I wanted to research. It was sent by an Annie to a Miss Gwen Jones of Vesta Road Brockley, south east London. Annie sent it on New Years Eve from St Ives in Cornwall.
So I have a name and an address as well as a date. What can I find out?
I checked the 1911 census and found the family. 55 year old Croydon born widow Annie Jones was head of the house, and living with her are her three adult children – Annie Gwendoline (28), Lily Gladys (28 twins?) and William JC Jones (26). Annie is a lodging house keeper and is renting rooms out to 4 people. I think this is why she has signed her postcard ‘Annie’ rather than ‘Mother’. It also explains that daughter Annie is known by her middle name so not to confuse everyone.
The three children were all born in Melbourne, Australia.
Now the research becomes a bit harder. First of all Jones is a fairly common surname and Annie is a widow so I don’t have her husbands name so can’t pinpoint a marriage for her.
However luck is on my side because Annie is also on the 1901 UK census and not only that she is living with her parents in 1891! Thank you Annie ☺
So now I have a maiden name for her – Cheverton, as well as her parents and some siblings.
I can’t find a marriage for Annie Cheverton and a ? Jones but I know that she has lived in Melbourne so I search for her leaving England. And I find her sailing from Plymouth on-board the Orient liner Garonne in November 1880. After a horrendous sailing through storms and bad weather the ship arrived in Melbourne on New Years Day 1881.
Next I look for her marriage. Annie Cheverton married Hugh Gwilym Jones on the 25th of January 1881 at St Saviours, Collingwood, Melbourne. Perhaps Hugh had gone ahead to set up home for the couple? It would have been a whirlwind romance otherwise! The couple put a notice in the paper declaring their marriage and one the following year for the birth of daughter Annie (April 7th 1882) and again in 1883 (13th March) for daughter Lily. So not twins but only 11 months apart.
Now what about Hugh? He arrived in Melbourne in April 1880 having sailed on the Steamer Chimborazo. Now we know Annie suffered a stormy crossing but poor Hugh must have feared for his life. His ship met with a terrible accident and had to return to England for repairs. The Chimborazo had met with a sudden rough sea and part of it had been swept away along with 30 passengers.
Hugh arrived in Australia as a labourer. It was a great time to emigrate. Australia was the ‘Land Of Promise’ said F W Hetherington, a London based Emigration Agent who regularly advertised his services in the national newspapers. Land was cheap, jobs were plentiful and the prospects for hard workers were excellent.
Hugh and Annie must have been doing well, they moved house a couple of times and I found Hugh advertising his Drapery business in the local street directories. Their son William John Cheverton Jones arrived in 1884 and life seemed good.
For a while.
I found only two more entries in the Australian newspapers for the family. Both on the same day Wednesday 2nd November 1887.
They appear one below the other in The Argus. The first informing its readers of the death of 37 year old Hugh G Jones, who died at his residence Claremont, Barkly Street, St Kilda and details of his funeral. The second entry asks for Hugh’s fellow members of the Cambrian Victoria Society* to attend his funeral.
*One of many societies set up at the time (and in many cases still running) to support newly emigrated people to find friendship, work, homes etc in their new lives.
I was able to find a record of Hugh’s death, it just gave the names of his parents William Jones and Elizabeth Hughs of Liverpool, England. And a note of what is written on Hugh’s headstone -Hugh Gwilym Jones son of Wm Jones of Liverpool, England. 31. October 1887. With no mention of his wife or children we must assume his father paid for his headstone.
So now Annie is far from home with 3 small children. Did she try to carry on supporting her children or sell the business (or her husbands tools of the trade) straight away to return to her family?
I couldn’t find them sailing back to England and believe me I looked. For hours. I knew they had travelled sometime between late 1887 and being enumerated on the 1891 UK census. Even I gave up at the point of having to search manually through thousands of families on ships leaving Melbourne.
We don’t know what happened to Annie during those three years. We can’t even make an educated guess. All we know is at some point she came back to England, but how she managed to live will have to remain a mystery for now.
Annie remained a widow at least til 1912 which is the last I have of her, on the Electoral register at Vesta Road. Her daughters never married ( I have their deaths) although her son did.
I haven’t even found Annie’s death (yet, yes I’ll keep looking…) it’s a bit like looking for a, well you get the picture.