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.

It could all be rubbish.

I can only apologise to anyone who has been waiting for a new post. I have an excuse or 2 though. I have several new and exciting projects on the go… a couple don’t even have anything to do with dead people!

One of the projects is de-cluttering the house and doing a bit of decorating.

Soooo last Sunday I packed the car full of old junk and headed over to the local tip. I had a lot of old boxes to put in the cardboard recycling skip, so I climbed up the horrible metal steps in my sensible shoes (I have been known to get a boot heel stuck in the grills of those steps before…) and threw them in to the almost full bin. Then I spotted a pile of books sitting  near the edge of the container. Books! In the skip!!

One of the books looked quite old and I just couldn’t resist flicking the cover open to have a little nosy…

Edith Price

The inscription inside was almost illegible but the  year was still clearly visible, written in ink it said 1878.  I was pretty confident I could find something out about the Victorian owner of the book so I asked one of the staff if I could take the book home.

Printed in 1833, the book has the rather grand title ‘The Students Manual, An Etymological And Explanatory Vocabulary Of Words Derived From The Greek’ by R. Harrison Black, LL.D. According to its author it was originally compiled for the use of a young female relative and was then ‘published with the hope of it being generally useful more especially to young ladies – whose mode of education precludes them from an acquaintance with Greek.’ Thoughtful chap.

Now I won’t fib, this one has been a toughie. But I do not give up on dead people easily. Unless they specifically ask me to.

So I began by studying the inscription.  I have it as ‘from M.Blackstone to Edith M K Price. 1878’.  We can tell from the photo that the M.Blackstone has been written long before the rest of the dedication, it is in a steadier hand and the ink is of a slightly different colour. The book has been given to Edith by M long after M initially owned it.

I can only find one likely recipient, Edith Mary Karslake Price born in Scotland circa 1857, making her 21 when she was given the book.

Next job was to find Edith as close to 1878 as possible. In both 1871 and 1881 she was living in Rottingdean, on the outskirts of Brighton, with her mother and siblings including  younger brother Salisbury who later in life would become a Vicar.

Now I had to try and locate an M Blackstone.

A mile away in Ovingdean, living a quiet life next door to the local Vicar was an elderly spinster, Miss Margaret Blackstone. Born in 1799 in Wymering, Hampshire, Margaret was the daughter of Margaret Bigg-Withers and the Rev. Charles Blackstone. The ‘Materials for a history of the Wither family’ located on archive.org has some great information on the Bigg-Wither family including some letters written by them.

The Bigg-Withers family owned Manydown Park, Hampshire and were neighbours of the famous Austens and one of them, Harris, proposed to Jane. She apparently accepted his proposal briefly, changing her mind the next day.

Charles Blackstone died in 1804 and his widow Margaret spent much of her time at her childhood home with her also widowed sister and their combined collection of  small children.

Margaret the younger lived with her mother until Margaret Snr died in 1842. Then she gradually moved her way towards Brighton during the next few decades.

Could Margaret have been the mysterious M? We have no real way of telling. I think M was probably a woman, and had a love of learning. Both owners of the book came from families of wealth and property, were fortunate to be in a position where they could have a good education, and both had Clergymen in their immediate family.

Perhaps the women met socially as they only lived a few minutes walk apart, Margaret discovering their shared love of learning giving her book to Edith for her birthday. Could it have been a gesture to show the shared frustration felt by women who were limited in their studies by the age they lived in?

Maybe Margaret isn’t the correct M.Blackstone after all.  We’ll never know.

Margaret and Edith lived on their private incomes during their lifetimes and remained  unmarried. They died in 1885 and 1943 respectively.

Now I am sure I must have one project that doesn’t involve the dearly departed somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So where were we….

Like many people I like a quiet walk through a churchyard, I like to explore the old stones and sometimes take note of a name or two and see what I can find out about them. About 15 years ago I was walking around a Sussex churchyard with my mum and the thought occurred to us …why not record some of these stones? many of the memorials were from the early 1800s and were rapidly falling victim to weather – the soft sandstone losing the lettering once carved into it. So we began to spend our spare time there, on hands and knees with paper and pens (yes it was in the days before Tablets!) and in all weathers, desperately trying to read inscriptions that were terribly faint and almost illegible.

In the end we recorded well over a thousand headstones. It was a very difficult project, we didn’t get it right in some cases but we tried our best, visiting local archives to try and get as many names and dates right as possible.  We purchased death certificates, read obituaries in local papers dating back to Victorian times. But it was great, and we had fun doing it. When complete we felt we had achieved something, and many people who had long since gone were remembered and now have become like old friends to us, albeit some of them probably have the odd chuckle at my expense about that ant incident.

One nice part of our project was the people we met, both in person and online. We received photos of Edwardians now residing in our churchyard whose families had since emigrated, we were able to help people find long lost ancestors buried in a church miles away from where they should have been and we learnt a lot about the history of the area and its people.

So back to the name of the blog…. One of the oldest headstones we recorded had the rather sad inscription ‘Seized by death and prisoners made, three infant children’ and I was intrigued……..