This is the picture that started it all- A photograph stuck to a piece of cardboard with the words “Victoria Preedy 1900″ written on the back in my Grandmother’s handwriting. My Grandmother was born Lily Preedy and as far as I knew was one of five girls- Lily, Rose, Mabel, Maud and Violet, so who was Victoria? By the time I had found the census record from 1901 with Victoria May and her parents (my great- grandparents) I was hooked. Victoria May died when she was two so this is surely the only photo taken of her, and my Dad knew nothing about her. My Grandmother had never mentioned her but kept her photo safe for 80 years. That’s what’s amazing about family history- the things people either try to hide or forget about.
This person dies on 23rd Dec 1925, Cardiff aged 61, and got married on 1st June 1895 also in Cardiff- so far, so straightforward On both the 1911 and 1901 censuses he says he is from Berwick St John, Berkshire. If he is from Berwick St. John then he is missing from the birth registers in 1864 and the parish Christening records too. His birthday was celebrated on 20th March but the only person with the right string of names of approximately the right age is from Teignmouth, about 30 miles away, and can be traced separately through the 1901 and 1911 censuses.
His father is named as John on William’s marriage certificate, so I am working on the basis that a combination of these facts will be the truth (a way of uncovering a mistake, but also a lie is always better being close to the truth). I have found a William John Cox born in Berwick St John and christened on 22nd April 1864 (father named John) and he completely disappears after the 1891 census. I can’t find a criminal record of anything to indicate why William John Cox may have changed his name, but I am relying on internet sources, so I don’t have access to everything that is probably waiting in the Records Office. I should mention that there are no Vallance’s from Berwick St John. Of course, his family could always have just travelled through the place or he could have lived there when he was young (being born in the middle of the decade, he could have lived somewhere until almost 6 but not be on a census).
None of the three sisters of William John Cox marry anyone with the maiden name of Vallance, but maybe it’s time to check the families that his brothers married into.
I hate these dead ends. It’s like having an itch that you scratch despite yourself. Please if you have any ideas let me know!
So I am still on the trail of John Cane Bourne (as in the last post). I have had a more concerted look on familysearch.org and found some parish records confirming his three marriages. When John marries Ann Cornwall (wife number 2, Brighton, 1833) both parties are listed as being widowed. Being in Brighton is not surprising at all because his son born with wife number 3 lives in Brighton for his whole life, and it is about 30 miles or so from his birthplace of Hellingly but I can’t confirm that Philadelphia had actually died- there is no record anywhere of a burial for a Philadelphia Bourne or Goldsmith (her maiden name) or for anyone with a likely-looking mis-transcription.
The same is then true of Ann Bourne- no burial record. I have so far assumed that her first name is Ann, but a scout through possible marriages between an Ann and a Cornwall in Brighton reveals someone called Mary Ann Weller marrying a John Henry Cornwall in 1826 in the same church that Ann and John Cane Bourne get married in. A John Cornwall does also die in Brighton in 1830. It’s all a bit too circumstantial which is a pity! On with the search…
Well there is a lot to look back on over the last year both in ‘real’ life and in my research too. Who can resist the lure of a New Year’s resolution- it’s like having a new exercise book at school with lovely clean pages and you do your best handwriting for about half a page until you make a spelling mistake. My resolution is to try and be a bit more organised about my research. I get very distracted by new branches or even people who live next door! which is no good for finishing anything.
I tried my hardest yesterday to make a decent list of the records that are the highest priority to find, as they will unlock quite a bit more. In making this list I realised that each branch of my family has at least one person who seems to vanish into thin air. One in particular has a fabulous name: Philadelphia Goldsmith. I wasn’t expecting someone with this name to elude me for so long, but this is partly because she was born 1800-1810 and married in 1827, before registration and actually neither her first or surname are that uncommon for that period in East Sussex. The source that this leads me to is the National Archives found at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk where I found this record
Maintenance order PAR422/34/2/119 25 Apr 1828
For anyone dipping a toe into family history a great free source of information is the 1881 census, and at the moment it’s the only one which is always completely free. It’s available on several sites but I tend to use familysearch.org which has a good search facility. I tested a family member with a very common name- Thomas Evans, gave a 5-year window for his name and the correct one was on the top few results. Thomas George Evans, born 1875 was Ivy’s father, so he was my great grandfather. He was born in Wellington, Shropshire as were most of his siblings but I haven’t found any online christening records to confirm this. He lived at 27 Neath Yard Road, Llansamlet in 1881 but it doesn’t exist any more, so I’m not sure exactly where it is. Looking at the area around Llansamlet it was all small collieries and canals and railway lines. Probably the same as many square miles of south Wales at the time. I wonder what they would make of us, with plenty to eat, gas central heating, few people with manual jobs like they would have known, life expectancy of over 80 and watching, tapping and prodding several interactive screens at once. How bizarre.
So, I knew that my Grandmother (Ivy Evans) was Welsh, and born just outside Maesteg in 1910. When I had a quick scout for her family I found them on the 1911 and 1901 censuses in the Bridgend registration district, and saw that they were both English and I thought ‘that’s the extent of the Welsh then’ and resigned myself to it. I met up with my only Uncle from this side of the family over the summer and it prompted me to do a bit more research. My great grandmother Jane Williams was only English (born in Cheltenham in 1867) because she was illegitimate and probably sent away from home to have the baby. Margaret Williams, who was Jane’s mother and was 22 at the time was from Aberystwyth and both of her parents Richard and Elizabeth were also Welsh, from Ceredigion and Conwy.
Some of the most interesting sources I have found have been in connection with Richard Williams who is described on the census as either Grocer or Confectioner. Welsh newspapers have been put online (and more importantly, indexed) by the National Library of Wales at http://welshnewspapers.llgc.org.uk/en/home and there are plenty of references from descriptions of court proceedings through the 1860s and 1870s with Richard not paying his poor tax or water rates and leaving the shop that he rented with a confectionary machine that did not belong to him. I have found a few other people who share this part of the family tree and it’s always nice to feel (however vaguely) connected to other people, Anyhow, an eighth of the family tree is Welsh at least back to 1800. I currently live in a cottage built in the 1790s and it’s quite comforting in some way to think that I have something in common with them.
There are a number of myths that I have no way of substantiating- Ellen Hamilton (nee Collins) was from Cork, so obviously there is a family legend that she was a cousin of THE Michael Collins. Related to this is the story that James was disowned by his family for marrying a Catholic- certainly his children were raised Catholic and his daughters married the Eedy brothers who were Catholic Irish immigrants.
There is a similar theme of the fall-out from a Protestant-Catholic marriage on the Eedy side of the family a couple of generations before this. Again the man, Robert Eedy is the Protestant and his second wife Catholic. They live on Eedy land, a farm (in Cork again). The myth here is that she had their children christened in secret and the family then got asked to move to a house some distance away. I will have to do some more work to be certain where the children were christened. Not for the first time, I wish that so many Irish records hadn’t been destroyed!
But back for the moment to the Hamilton family- I mentioned in the previous post that there may have been a child born to Ellen and James before their wedding in 1864. There is certainly a James Hamilton born in Q1 (so Jan-March) 1864 in Cardiff and his parents are called James and Ellen Hamilton, but Ellen’s maiden name in Fenton and on the 1871 census, baby James (and a second child, Ellen) are with grandparents in Roath. I haven’t found the parents in 1871. Everyone should have at least one middle name which they use consistently so they can be found generations later! Sometimes you just have a feeling about what you find- I don’t think these identically-named people are related to mine! Back to Cork’s birth records…