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.

A stitch in time

sampler

I recently spent a lovely afternoon (yes, of course it rained) at Michelham Priory near Eastbourne in Sussex.  It really is a lovely tranquil place, sitting in the middle of seven acres of land. In fact I would almost go as far as saying rain only adds to its loveliness. Almost.

After wandering round the gardens, the playground and feeding the ducks (3 times, my daughter thought they were the best bit of the day..)  we explored the house. Its a fantastic old building, full of wooden panels and leaded windows. And there are even costumes to dress up in! (somewhat unsuccessfully if you get the wrong size and your mum takes a photo..)

The priory began life in 1229 as a monastery, but was disbanded as part of the dissolution during the reign of King Henry VIII. It then  took on a new life as a country home passing through several families over the following centuries. Over the years some of the buildings and the church itself were destroyed, but as you walk around you still get a sense of its previous life.

So, in one of the rooms upstairs I noticed a couple of old samplers and some sepia photographs on one of the walls. I particularly liked the one above and, well obviously, that was it for me. I couldn’t wait to get home and start researching.

Samplers were just that, samples of sewing. They could be examples of patterns and colours to be shown to prospective customers, Domestically they were used to practice stitches, try out small sections of embroidery before attempting much bigger projects and, later on, girls would sew them at home or school perhaps with a poem, or long biblical verses on or like the one picture above the alphabet.

Catharine Child was eight years old when she completed her sampler.

Eight years old!

I couldn’t believe it either. She had in fact celebrated her 8th birthday just over a week before, hopefully not by sewing though.

Catharine was born on the 4th of March 1837, the seventh child of Thomas and Elizabeth. There would be a further three siblings born after her.

Three months after Catharine was born Victoria became Queen, and a month after that on the 1st of July (a date burnt into the memory of all genealogists) the General Register Office began to record  births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales. Yay!

By the time Thomas and his growing family lived at Michelham it was a working farm with a watermill to grind flour. Thomas would have probably grown his own wheat to mill but would also have milled other peoples grain for a fee.

Thomas was also proud to have a huge herd of Sussex Bred cows and calves all descended from one particular cow called ‘Lilley’ since 1804. He frequently won prizes for his cows. Thomas regularly visited the big cattle market at Lewes to sell his surplus cattle, and in 1818 he was one of many farmers who signed a petition to change market day from a Saturday to a more convenient Tuesday.

Thomas passed away in 1854 at the relatively young age of 61. It seems that some effort was made to continue farming at Michelham but in September 1861 a great auction with no reserve was set up on the premises as the family were ‘wholly disinclined to farming’.

Travellers from far and wide were met by carriages at the local railway station to complete their journey to the farm and by the end of the day horses, ewes, cows and calves were all gone along with all the farm equipment.

Maybe the Child family knew what was to come, because in 1865 ‘cattle plague’ wiped out a great deal of cattle at Michelham Farm, much to the distress of the new farmer there.

The widowed Elizabeth (now of independent means) moved to Lewes with a handful of her adult children although her eldest son, Francis remained close to his childhood home and moved to another farm. He was also the local registrar of births, deaths and marriages as well as being a relieving officer.

It would have been his job to record hatches, matches and dispatches as well as visiting the homes of people in need of financial assistance due to illness, infirmity or unemployment and then report back his findings to the local board of guardians who would have decided whether or not to help. Some families would have received ‘out-relief’ a weekly sum of money to help with rent and food for a few weeks, some would have been sent to the workhouse and the rest would have had no help. At all.

I was surprised to learn that of the 6 Child daughters, despite all living beyond a marriageable age, only one married. Eldest daughter Susannah left the family in 1865, marrying Benjamin Morris and remaining in Lewes close to her mother.

But what about Catharine?  Around about the time the family moved to Lewes, she found work as a housekeeper to the Hollis family. Her mother died in 1873 and some of the sisters stayed living together (again with a private income) until gradually they diminished in number.  By 1881 Catharine had become the Hollis children’s governess and was living in London with the family. She stayed with them until the mid 1880s when death was to change her future again.

In 1884 brother Francis (who we had left farming up there ↑↑↑ ) lost his wife, Jane. She left behind three young children in want of a mother. So Catherine left her charges in London and returned to her family and in effect became a now unpaid housekeeper receiving board and lodging in exchange for running the household. Hopefully she enjoyed her new life.

Francis died in 1902 and Catharine became redundant, her nieces were in their 20’s and had moved away to pursue their own careers. Catharine needed to find new employment and a new home. She may have lived for a while with her last remaining sister, Caroline, but by 1911 she was living with a poorly cousin, Mary Lambe, and employed once again as a live-in housekeeper. She was 74 years old.

Mary died in December 1916 from complications of influenza and I can’t find Catharine again until her death in 1921.

After a life time of caring for others Catharine passed away aged 84.

Thank you to Michelham Priory for allowing me to photograph the sampler.