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 shady hat and a bottle of smelling salts.

Flora LouisaThis pretty sepia photograph was taken in India to celebrate the wedding of Flora and Edward Hart at the church of St John, Calcutta in 1883. Flora sent this copy home to her family, thousands of miles away in Bristol.

I purchased the photo from a flea market many years ago. The reverse gives a name and a date, but I misread the surname and so unable to find any clue of Flora, I gave up. Defeated. Until now. Having recently found* the picture again  and looked at the name from all angles until there it was, staring back at me.  SLANT became HART and all was revealed. And a good job too really because Flora has an interesting story to tell.

*Not that it was lost, it was just filed away ☺……

Flora Louisa Dix was born in 1857 in Bristol, England. She was the fourth of seven children born to  George Dix and Emma Churchill.  George was a local Auctioneer and by 1853 also the Landlord of the Black Horse. Emma -along with her four siblings -had grown up in the pub, her father Robert having owned it at the time.  The family seem to be a fairly affluent one, documents found online show George was able to loan money to friends and family. £500 in one case, a huge sum at that time.

Emma Churchill suffered a truly horrendous year in 1871. Firstly, in the February, she lost her husband George, his death was was quickly followed a few weeks later by her mother Mary aged 71 and then her father Robert passed away aged 77. She gave the pub up in 1874 and settled back comfortably (maybe a well-deserved glass of stout in hand?) to watch her children marry well.

Lets get back to Flora… now  we do have one teeny tiny problem with Flora. I can find no record of her climbing aboard a steamship and sailing to India. Nothing about the 2 or 3 week voyage she took through the increasingly hot weather, what class she travelled in or even the name of the ship that took her.  Nothing about who she sailed with or when she left England. It must have been after the census taken in April 1881 where she was living with her mother. And it must have been before February 1883 because she married in the March. Infuriating isn’t it.  We know she was single though, but we don’t know if she knew her future husband or not at this point. When she stepped off the ship and into a new life full of exciting sights and smells, who was waiting for her at the dock?

Fortunately however, we can have a little peek at what her voyage would have been like.  Because in 1882 a handy little book was published for people wanting to travel to India. Its called Indian Outfits and establishments, a practical guide for persons to reside in India, and its online to browse through. It gives advice about routes to travel, baggage weights, what clothes to take -12 thin cotton nightdresses, 12 thicker cotton nightdresses, 26 various kinds of petticoat, vests, drawers, bodices, 36 lace hankies, corsets, stockings, wrappers, mittens, a good stock of collars and frills, plain dresses, afternoon dresses, evening dresses, tennis dresses, – the list of clothing  is endless. This of course is in addition to clothes simply needed for the actual journey.

The traveller is advised to pack a months worth of clothes for the voyage and onward travel by train. It won’t be possible to wash clothes while sailing. And  a shady hat for using on deck. And ginger in case of seasickness. A favourite book and some writing materials. Brandy, sticking plaster, smelling salts, a glass to drink from. Oh and some candles for the train. Maybe a tin of sugar and some cocoa and biscuits.  An umbrella, waterproof wrap and some shawls. Also a chair may be of some comfort.

Cabins might be shared with 4 or 5 other women, I can’t imagine how jam-packed the ladies were with all their bits of luggage.  But of course these ladies wouldn’t have been able to buy these vital comforts en route to their new homes. The book goes on to describe places of interest to visit if time allows, how to engage and manage servants, how to furnish your home, illness and entertaining and a great deal more. It really is a fascinating read.

During the British Raj (1858-1947) a great many British men had travelled to India, the majority to work in some capacity. Edward Hart was to be one of these men. He was born in Portsmouth on the south coast of England in 1856. His  father, Edward Hart Snr – an Engineer,  had died when Edward was a small boy and his mother Elizabeth had married again a short time later. Her new husband, Thomas Hindmarsh, was a Civil Engineer who was involved in building the railway system in India. Elizabeth and Thomas had three children during the 1860s and then it seems Edward may have accompanied his stepfather on one of his trips to India after 1871.  Edward had been training to be an engineer himself and would eventually work on the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. Again there is no record of these outward journeys, argh!

Perhaps the couple met through their families,  perhaps through mutual friends. Maybe they wrote letters to each other and then Flora travelled to meet her intended. It is even possible that Flora simply upped and left England with friends bound for India and met Edward for the first time over there, many women did indeed do this. What we do know though is that the couple settled to down and had four children who, like their peers, were sent to boarding school in England. A country they had never seen, with a completely different climate and with family they had never met.

In 1889 Edwards half-sister Elizabeth married  another Civil Engineer, Sulyarde Cary. The marriage was short-lived  and the widowed Sulyarde went on to marry Georgianna Dix, a younger sister of Flora’s in 1893. This sister had followed Flora out some years later,  perhaps as a result of Floras letters home. A second sister, Beatrice, joined them in 1900, along with her husband – Edward Harts half brother Thomas Hindmarsh who had been working in Bengal on the railways since 1884.  It is possible the 3 sisters were near enough to each other to be able to enjoy each others company in what could otherwise have been a lonely existence, having to live at a distance from the servants and local population with only a small crowd of fellow British wives. While the men got on with their work the wives were left to keep house and raise the children.

I have found a  mention of Edward Hart being promoted to from Captain to a Major of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Volunteer Rifle Corps in July 1903. 

Beatrice died in India in 1904 at the age of 30. She was shipped home to Bristol and buried in the village churchyard. Georgianna followed her sisters path in 1906 aged just 33 possibly escorted by Flora who stayed in England, while Edward seemed to make many more crossings to Bombay.  Edward died in 1934 and his death registered in Southampton. Flora is living in London at this point and remained there, dying at Ealing Common during the second world war in 1941.

What an amazing life Flora must of lived, from our distant viewing point – Flora may well have disagreed.