Please mind the gap.

annie-jones

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.

Mary Wilkins.

mary-wilkins

In the days before online genealogy research was so easy, we researchers had to leave our homes and travel – by horse and carriage – to local (and not so local) archives and trawl through reels and reels of microfilm for little snippets of information to add to our family and other trees.

You had to scribble everything down in pencil, if you were lucky you could photocopy a page from the microfilm reader to save time. No laptops, tablets or cameras allowed then. And I’m not talking decades ago either.

My mum and I visited archives all over London and the southeast of England to track down baptisms and burials, and sometimes we got lucky and found them and sometimes we didn’t (yes Francis Shearley I’m talking about you! Again!)

As a consequence of all that scribbling I have quite a few bits of paper covered in partially illegible writing. Well it was probably 5 minutes to closing time and I would have been frantically getting as much information down as I could. It would have been weeks until my next visit!

So… I was browsing through one of my old notebooks recently and found an odd burial that I had made a note of, alongside a burial I had been looking for (and managed to find!). The burial was for a little girl, no forename had been added and it had obviously intrigued me at the time.

The entry in the burial register reads…

The daughter of Hubert and MaryAnn Wilkins. 8 hours. Buried 31st March 1899. Uckfield, East Sussex.

It mentions that the burial was certified under the Burial Laws amendment Act 1880. We’ll look at that in more detail later.

With a little bit of research using freebmd.uk.org I found that the most likely child was Mary Wilkins whose birth and death were registered in Uckfield during the first quarter (January to March) of 1899. So now we have a name for this little girl.

MaryAnn was born in Uckfield and was the daughter of local coal merchant Arthur Jeffrey. Before her marriage she had been a live-in domestic servant to a family living close to the Palace in Brighton.

Hubert had been born some distance away in Westbourne, West Sussex. After Hubert left school he worked as a carter, transporting goods.

I checked the 1901 census for Hubert and his wife MaryAnn and found them living in Uckfield. The couple had married in early in 1897, shortly after Hubert had taken up the post of luggage porter at Uckfield railway station, he obviously liked working with wheels. They had a house close to Hubert’s work and were parents to 10 month old Hubert Jr.

At this point I thought it would be nice to go and visit Marys grave in Uckfield, so I made contact with the civic centre who hold the cemetery records and located the grave. I also learnt that Hubert and MaryAnn had already lost a child before their daughter Mary.

Edith Annie was buried on the 12th of September 1898 aged just 19 days. She was probably named after MaryAnn’s sister Edith. Now by my reckoning that means that daughter Mary must have been a couple of months premature. How sad for the couple to have lost their first children. MaryAnn would have been just 21.

Childbirth could be a dangerous time, and a perfectly healthy mother could suddenly become ill and die leaving a husband to cope with older children and perhaps a new baby. There was of course no way of knowing how healthy the growing bump was or any real way of foreseeing any difficulties during labour until the moment arrived. A child born days or weeks early had very little, if any, chance of survival.

This was the reality of the life our ancestors lived.

However happier times lay ahead, three healthy babies born in quick succession, followed by another death – a son this time who died aged 6 weeks. Finally a last daughter for the couple in 1906.

The baby girls were buried together and their tiny brother was laid to rest beside them in 1906. None of the graves are marked.

When I checked the 1911 census I noticed that Hubert had written that he and MaryAnn had only 6 children, with 4 of them surviving. I wonder which one he had forgotten.

Lets go back to the Burial Laws amendment Act of 1880. I’ll be honest this made my head hurt. I think I have it right…

This law was added to allow ‘dissenter’ burials to lawfully take place in a Church of England churchyard. This meant that people practicing other religions (Baptists and Methodists for example) were able to be buried in their parish church with a service performed by the leader of their own religion, or a few words said over the grave by a family member. A certificate had to be presented to the Vicar stating that such a burial was going to take place, and the ceremony was performed at the graveside.

Shortly after the law was implemented there were all kinds of demonstrations at funerals by parishioners who were horrified by it. Meetings were held at the graveside about who was allowed to do what while mourners stood by waiting to bury a loved one.

In Marys case we don’t know why she didn’t have a Church of England ceremony. It may have been because of her parents beliefs or it may have been because she had died unbaptised. She was only 8 hours old so perhaps the family were unable to have a christening performed at such short notice.

One last thought, these children would not have appeared on a census and would have remained unknown except by chance – which reminds us to search for the births and deaths of other offspring a couple of years either side of known children when researching our family trees. Just in case.

Many thanks to Linda for her help in finding the Wilkins burials.

Long overdue.

Thomas Foord Waldron

 

 

 

 

 

Long before the fortnightly collection, humans used to dispose of their own rubbish mostly by burying it. It wasn’t much more than the burnt remains of the fire until far more recently.

In the 19th century and before there was no plastic to dispose of and no old microwaves or tumble driers to get rid of. Things were used and re-used until they couldn’t be used anymore. Then they were burnt and buried or maybe collected by people who would sort through the ash for usable items to sell on themselves. Bits of bone, buttons etc.

As time went on and the household rubbish began to contain things that wouldn’t burn well, tin  and glass for example, local authorities had to do something constructive about it and a more local organised collection began to emerge.

However sometimes people continued to use the old rubbish pit that they had dug in their garden many years before and then decades later people like my mum would be digging a hole in a border in the garden and then randomly find half a broken plate or a glass bottle stopper just where they were about to plant a tulip bulb.

I have to assume that litter bins were few and far between in the more rural areas at that time, because I am always finding bits of old Victorian crockery and such, sticking up out of the ground in woods and old trackways. It seems our ancestors were litterbugs too.

And as a result we have a nice little collection of cod bottles at home, pretty little blue poison bottles and stoneware bottles that we have discovered whilst out walking. We’ve got some lovely beer bottles, gin bottles and lemonade bottles. A Marmite jar, a few decorative milk bottles and a couple of Sainsbury’s pate pots. Even an old Bovril jar or 10.

And just for a little while, this very tactile mineral water bottle ‘lent’ to us by Mr T Foord. But he actually wanted this rubbish back. Yesterday.

I found Mr Foords bottle laying face down after a walk in the countryside with my children. After carefully retrieving it from its muddy tomb and cleaning it up (evicting the bugs!)  we could clearly read….

‘This bottle is lent by T Foord of Waldron and must be returned’

Oops.

Thomas Foord was born in Heathfield, East Sussex sometime around January 1841. He was the only child of George Foord, an agriculturial labourer and Eliza (possibly nee Knight). By 1851 the family had moved just along the road to the edge of the small village of Waldron, taking Georges widowed father, Jesse, with them.

Thomas grew up following his fathers occupation and then married local girl Philadelphia Stevens in May 1865, the bride had just turned 19 and the groom was 24. Their first child, Jesse – named after Thomas’ grandad, was born soon after. The couple would have 13 children in total.

Now something quite exciting happened around this time. I’m not quite sure how it happened but George Foord suddenly became his own boss, a farmer of 5 acres.

And his son Thomas started a business.

Family history says that Philadelphia Foord was a dab hand at brewing ginger beer, and Thomas saw the potential in this. Before long Thomas was selling his own bottled mineral water, ginger beer, potash and lemonade. Thomas became quite famous in the locality for his delicious drinks.  As his children grew some of them entered the family business too and eventually son Walter took over from his father, continuing to trade until the second world war when Foords was bought by a much larger mineral company, Hooper Struave from Brighton.

Thomas pops up frequently in the Sussex newspapers, he obviously took a keen interest in his local community. He had various hobbies and interests, he was at one time a bellringer, a member of a slate club and involved in the local bonfire society. What I particularly liked about him though is he seems to have ended pretty much every meeting he attended by performing a jolly or comical song!

I dragged persuaded the family to go for a drive over to Waldron churchyard to see if we could find any family graves. We found a couple but sadly not George and Eliza or Thomas and Philadelphia’s, we did however find Thomas’ and Philadelphia’s house still standing. I wonder how many bottles are waiting to be found there. Or if they pop up frequently  whilst the owners are gardening….

But what about Philadelphia who seems to have started the cottage industry? She was a farmers daughter and one of five surviving children. Her mother Ann is likely to have been the only daughter of Philadelphia Ashby of nearby Rotherfield.   This Philadelphia spent a large part of her life working as a live-in housekeeper on a farm. It would be interesting to delve further back into this maternal line to see if the brewing skill was passed down to Ann.

I contacted Sheila, who is a descendant of Thomas and Philadelphia, and she was kind enough to supply some of this information and this photo of Thomas.

Thomas Foord

He does look like a jolly chap doesn’t he?

I was really pleased to be able to return Mr Foords bottle to his family. And even more pleased it reached Sheila in one piece!

Now, anyone want a Bovril jar?

 

‘Goodbye Ada!’

Pond

Imagine, for a moment if you will, that you are walking along a quiet, leafy country lane on the outskirts of a small English village. The road is dry and dusty underfoot, the air is filled with the ‘perfume’ of a nearby farm.  The evening is drawing in and the warmth of the June day is beginning to fade. It’s a time before cars were common and planes were just used by carpenters, so there is no modern noise to interrupt your thoughts as you make your way home. Unless we include the baa-ing of the sheep on that farm, if that is that a modern noise?

Sorry, I have spoilt your concentration. Lets get baa-ack to the quiet leafy lane.

Suddenly, as you round a bend, a young boy appears and runs unseeingly past you. He is the first person you have seen for a while and, in this fading light, he has quite unnerved you.  Take a moment to catch your breath and then please continue on your way .

Just a little way ahead, you can see a small crowd of people gathered around the edge of a large pond just to the side of the road.  As you draw closer you can tell something is very wrong.

Lying beside the pond is the lifeless body of a young woman, her dishevelled hair is soaked and full of weeds and mud.  Someone is lifting her arms above her head and then bringing them back to her chest in an attempt to revive her.  More people arrive breathlessly from behind you. Maybe they are her family, perhaps the boy who ran past you was going to fetch them.  Whoever they are, they are too late…

June 2nd 1881

Martha Styles was just 17 when she left her parents home for the last time. She told them she was going to catch the evening train from the station a mile or so away, back to the townhouse where she worked a few miles away. She said her goodbyes to her parents and siblings and made her way out of the house.

She took her youngest sister, 3 year old Ada, out to the garden gate and asked her to walk a little way with her, but their mother overheard and called out that it was far too late for the little girl to be out. Martha said goodbye to Ada and walked away. It was just after 8pm

But she didn’t go to the station. She walked the opposite way, towards a large pond about half a mile away. She stood by the water, took her hat and scarf off and then laid them on the grass nearby.

At about half past 8, Martha was discovered struggling in the pond by a couple of small boys who tried to help her. They fetched help and eventually she was dragged from the deep muddy water. When it became obvious there was nothing more to be done, her body was removed to a nearby  pub, where it was stored in an outbuilding until the inquest could be arranged a couple of days later.

This was quite common for the time. Public houses usually had room for a large table where the body could be viewed, plenty of space for the Coroner, and any other interested parties and of course it would be able to provide refreshments.  Hopefully not served from that large table during proceedings though.

At the inquest her mother, Ann, told the coroner that Martha had returned home from the local town in the hope of getting a position closer to her family but had missed out on it. She had moved away a couple of months earlier, telling her family she had employment in the household of a family a few miles away.

Ann had no explanation for her daughters actions, and was only able to add that Martha had suffered from fits as a child, ‘dropping down as if she was dead’ and the doctor had often been called to attend to her.

One of the boys who had tried to get Martha out of the pond said that she seemed to just struggle and take no notice of their pleas for her to grab the stick they held out for her to grab. The doctor who performed the ‘mechanical breathing’ to try and revive her said her face was discoloured as if she had been fitting in the water.

The court was told that she had worn some boots belonging to her mistress and had been caught with them, the mistress demanded 18 shillings for said boots of which poor Martha had only managed to pay 2.

Being unable to find the money to pay for the boots, she had been sacked a week or so before her death. Her parents had been unaware of this and thought their girl was still at her place, but looking for another one. Her father only learned of her dismissal when he had gone to the employers house to ask for his daughters things back. They were being kept, he was told by a servant there, until the rest of the shillings were paid.

Her father, Stephen, said he had been told by another servant at the house that Martha may have been with child, but he didn’t know if this was true. Martha hadn’t told them she was on her last visit home.

Her mother then told the court that when Martha had returned home she appeared to be as happy and cheerful as ever, only noticing her daughter seemed unable to enjoy reading as she used to. There was no unpleasantness at home at all, both of her parents would have been happy for her to remain at home.

So what had happened to Martha? Did she kill herself or was it a tragic accident? Why had she decided to walk to the pond instead of going to catch her train? She had no job to return to at that point but she had felt unable to speak to her family about her troubles. Had she simply gone for a walk to think over what to do and decided to paddle in the pond, taking her hat and scarf off first before becoming ill and falling in?

Whatever had happened, the verdict at the inquest was suicide. Martha was buried on the 6th of June, which oddly enough was exactly 135 years ago as I write this.

But that is not the end.

Martha was the 6th of 13 children, and at the time of her death only her younger siblings remained at home. The family probably lived in a small ‘two up two down’ type cottage, close to the farm where her father worked.

These cottages were so called because they had 2 bedrooms upstairs and a large kitchen and small sitting or ‘best’ room downstairs. The toilet would have been outside. It would have been a squeeze to fit everyone in and this is why children tended to leave home at a young age (especially girls) and live and work at the home of the employer.

One of the problems of having a large family in a small home was how rapidly illness could spread. In the days before many effective medications had been discovered even a minor cut could cause blood poisoning and death.

At the end of July, 9 year old Emma Ann Styles became ill. At first it was just a sore throat, but then a rash and a high temperature followed. It must have been quite serious as the doctor was called from his home just across the road.

It was Scarlet Fever. With no antibiotics and little in the way of painkillers there wasn’t much to be done except hope and pray for a quick recovery. Complications were common – kidney failure, septicemia, heart problems and secondary fever amongst other things were all killers –  a family could lose several children to an illness like this in a very short period of time. And there was nothing to be done but hope the patient got better.

Emma died on the 7th of august and was buried on the 9th close to Martha.

But this is still not the end.

Shortly before she died Emma passed the illness on to her sister 11 year old Phoebe.

Phoebe to succumbed to the terrible illness and was buried alongside Emma on the 13th of August.

With 5 children still in the home, including a young baby, Ann and Stephen must have been at their wits end.

On the 10th of August as Phoebe lay breathing her last, the doctor again called at the house, and confirmed to the grieving couple that their youngest daughter, little Ada, had also become infected.

Ada was very poorly but held on for 2 weeks. She died on the 24th of August and  was buried swiftly the next day close, to her sisters.

Four daughters dead and buried in the space of 3 months. How quiet that once crowded, noisy house must have been.

A Blank Space.

WP_20140421_005Occasionally on my travels I stumble across (sometimes quite literally) a headstone like this one belonging to Caroline Young.  Caroline has died in  the prime of life and her husband has  purchased a memorial for her and rather thoughtfully left a nice blank space on it for his own name to be added to it when he joins her.

Except his name hasn’t been added to the stone .

The usual reason for this is the surviving spouse has married again and is buried with their second spouse.  I have found a man who married three times,  his first two wives are buried together and he is buried with his third wife.  Not quite sure how those first two dearly departed wives would have felt about that!

Caroline and James were both just 22 when they married in 1843. James seems to have moved into the quiet village with his parents and siblings a couple of years before this.  He worked on the surrounding farmland but in later years he became a Sawyer.  They had five children and if Caroline had lived just a month longer they would have been married for 20 years.

By the time of the 1861 census James and his three youngest children are living alone, the two eldest children have left home and are working away.  Caroline has gone AWOL but I think I may have found her mistranscribed in an infirmary in a nearby Kent town as Catherine instead of Caroline.

If this is our Caroline,  I think she must have been fairly unwell to have been admitted into the hospital. Nowadays if we are ill enough to go into hospital we are fortunate to know the standard of care provided and the progress of medicine is such that we will have the best possible treatment, but back in early to mid Victorian England things would have been very different. Usually a patient had to be recommended to the hospital by someone who donated money towards the upkeep of it.  Another way of being admitted was to be sent by the local Parish Clark. There were no antibiotics, not much in the way of pain relief and too much in the way of infection. A good outcome to a stay in hospital wasn’t always likely at that time. Patients may also have been required to pay something towards their keep, this may have prevented some people going until they absolutely had to.

Doctors may have been young and inexperienced, they would quite possibly have taken on private paid work to survive as  positions at voluntary hospitals were sometimes unpaid. The matron at the hospital Caroline may have been in worked there for almost 30 years and I noticed that after she had left the hospital and returned to her native Devon she was given the occupation of ‘Spinster’ in the 1891 census. Nothing mentioned about a whole working life devoted to caring for the sick and dying.

We know Caroline died in 1862, and I have ordered her death certificate so I can find out what happened to her and where. I will share that information with you when the certificate arrives hopefully next week.

Second marriages could be fairly rapid, sometimes just months after the loss of a spouse. It was most likely necessity –  a working man left with several dependent children needed a wife to care for his family. A widow with small children needed a steady income and of course both would want companionship. There was little official help available for bereaved families and the workhouse was a grim prospect.  Sometimes potential partners were neighbours or friends.

Another reason for a quick marriage could be where the new wife was a servant already in the household and tongues had begun wagging, especially after the arrival of a new child.

But James didn’t rush into another marriage, he waited 2 years before he married new wife Ann who  was a widow. Her husband had died shortly after Caroline in May 1862 and is buried close to her.  Ann brought to the marriage her own three children making a new household of 6 children.  And a father-in-law as Ann’s elderly father moved in with them. It must have been true love!

James, Ann, some children, a couple of nieces, a grandchild or 2 and a father-in-law moved into town where James opened a Beer Shop. He was fined a shilling for selling beer after hours (maybe he needed the money to support his extended family!)

Ann passed away in August 1888 and James followed her in 1908.  He lived with his widowed daughter Esther and her children  for the rest of his life. He passed away peacefully at home and was buried 4 days after his death.

Ann and James Young

 

I’ve managed to track down Ann and James’ last resting place, they are buried together in a quiet spot in  a cemetery on the outskirts of the town they lived in. Funnily enough if you stand at the edge of the churchyard Caroline is buried in you can see the cemetery where James is in the distance, only trees and fields separating the two.