Sunday, July 1, 2018

Why did Matthew spurn his family?

Equitable Street, Milnrow. Matthew and his family
 lived at number 33 in 1911.
Most of the unsolved mysteries from my family tree involve "what" "when" or "who" questions. What was the relationship between James Beales and William Beales? When was Richard Ward born? Who brought up Harriet Whybrew? They're questions that, at least in theory, could be answered by finding the right records (if they exist).

But sometimes the question behind a mystery is "Why?" Why did someone suddenly move across the country, or across the world? Why did a child named James apparently take the name of his dead brother William as an adult?

Most of the time, these questions are unanswerable. I can make a guess, based on learning more about a person's background, the social conditions, and local customs at the time. But I can never really be certain. The people who could tell me the answers are long gone.

One such unanswerable "why?" involves my father's Uncle Matthew (born November 1867). Matthew was born in Walton le Dale in Lancashire, but in the late 1870's his parents John and Mary Ward moved with their family to Littleborough. Then for a short while in the early 1890s they lived in Rastrick in Yorkshire. By the late 1890s the whole family had settled in the village of Milnrow in Lancashire, where John was a bootmaker and clogger. Most of the children remained there after they married and had families of their own.

For most of his adult life Matthew was employed as a fellmonger. Fellmongering is a process in which the wool is chemically separated from sheep hides, and was an industry for which Milnrow was noted. The wool was used by the woollen mills for weaving flannel, while the hides were tanned for leather.

Matthew met and married his wife, Elizabeth Ann Brown, while the Ward family were living in  Rastrick. They had six daughters, the first born in Rastrick and the other five in Milnrow. The youngest, Edith, a twin to Esther, died in her first year of life. The rest of the family all lived to a great age. Matthew and Elizabeth themselves, along with their two married daughters, Doris and Esther, all lived past eighty. Their unmarried daughters, Maud, Annie and Clara, all lived beyond ninety. Perhaps that in itself is a bit of a mystery, but not the one I'm coming to.

My father recounts that when he was about eight or nine years old, Matthew and his family suddenly stopped all interaction with the rest of the family. The rift was apparently never healed. For the rest of his life, Matthew's family had no contact with the rest of the family, even though they continued to live in the same small village. Or so my Dad remembers it. He was too young at the time to know what caused this disruption, though he thinks it involved some sort of argument.

I can't find anything in the records to suggest why Matthew and his family would have suddenly cut themselves off from the rest of the family at this time (around the end of the 1930's). Could there have been an argument over property? Or was it something more personal?

At the time of the 1939 Register (which is now online on both Ancestry and FindMyPast) Matthew had retired from work. The three unmarried daughters, Maud, Annie and Clara, all in their forties, were living with Matthew and Elizabeth in a house at 17 Buckley Hill Lane, which was practically "shouting distance" from other members of the family. They had been living there for at least eighteen years according to the electoral rolls.

Matthew's wife Elizabeth died in 1946 and Matthew himself died in March 1949, in Milnrow. He left his property to his daughters, who eventually all moved to Morecombe on the coast. None of them appears to have had any children. Unless something unexpected turns up, it seems unlikely that we'll ever find out what caused the family to separate from the wider family as they did.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Jane and Bridget Mason - still elusive

Adelaide Railway Station in 1878
Back in February 2013 I wrote a post titled "What happened to Jane and Bridget Mason?" about the two youngest of John and Catherine Mason's nine daughters. When John died in Adelaide in 1857, leaving Catherine destitute, Jane was 4 and Bridget 2 years old.

At the time of writing I said that I hadn't been able to find out anything about these two girls, and speculated that perhaps they'd been fostered out, with a subsequent change of name. Since then I've found a few tantalising snippets of information, though I still know very little about them compared to Susan Mason and her other sisters.

Jane (born 1852)

Recently I came across the birth of a Naomi Mason, whose mother's name was Jane Mason. No father's name was recorded. Both mother and baby were admitted to the Destitute Asylum in Adelaide on 12 August 1881, just two hours after the baby's birth, which took place in the Adelaide Railway Station. In the Destitute Asylum records the mother was reported to have another illegitimate child, aged two and a half, but I haven't been able to find any admission record for this child, or a birth record.

The mother Jane was said to be 20 years old. If this is correct, she would be quite a bit younger than the Jane I'm looking for. But two clues make me think that this might still be her. Firstly, her address is given as Alberton, in Port Adelaide, which is where Jane's sister Catherine Davis was living when her son Thomas Davis was born in 1882. Secondly, Catherine named one of her daughters Nahommi, which though spelled differently, is a very similar sounding and unusual name.

The birth of a baby in the railway station would seem newsworthy enough to warrant a newspaper mention, but so far I haven't found one. At the moment I'm waiting for a transcription of the details on the birth registrations for Naomi Mason and Thomas Davis, to see if they offer any further clues.*

Ward in Adelaide Hospital c 1890
A young single woman named Jane Mason was admitted to the Adelaide Hospital in June 1884. She was said to be 25 years old, born in Adelaide, Roman Catholic and living in Currie Street. Although her age is a problem, the other details would all fit with John and Catherine's daughter Jane. (The Mason family lived in Currie Street.)

Less than two years later, on 14 February 1886,  a woman named Jane Mason died in Adelaide, from cirrhosis of the liver. She was said to be 28 years old. This would make her 6 years younger than the Jane Mason I'm looking for. The death registration doesn't mention any family members, and I haven't found a funeral notice in the papers. But her address was recorded as Currie Street, which again offers the possibility that it might be the right person.

There were several young women named Jane Mason living in Adelaide in this era, so none of these "sightings" are conclusive. If this is not the Jane I'm looking for, it still seems quite likely that these three records all belong to the same woman. What a short and tragic life she lived.

Bridget (born 1854)

Adelaide Hospital, from North Terrace, c 1870
Bridget's name appears in the Adelaide Hospital admissions index as a patient on 6 January 1867. She's listed as a 13 year old, Roman Catholic, born in Adelaide and living there. The entry says nothing about what was wrong with her, or what happened to her.

And that's the only mention I can find of her. There's no entry in the Births, Deaths and Marriages indexes of her marriage or death in South Australia. The hospital record at least tells me that she hadn't changed her name, so that's a small advance on what I knew in 2013.

After finding the possible record of Jane giving birth to a daughter, I looked to see if Bridget's name appeared in the same way, as a mother. But it doesn't. Perhaps she moved interstate, but again, I've found no records that I can definitely link to her. Maybe in another five years time I'll be able to say more about Jane and Bridget, but for now they remain elusive.

*UPDATE: the birth registration for Naomi Mason doesn't include an address for her mother, so that line of investigation has reached a dead end.

Adelaide Railway Station from Wikimedia
Adelaide Hospital 1870 from State Library of South Australia
Adelaide Hospital c 1890 from State Library of South Australia

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Were James and William Beales brothers?

Here's the next family history "mystery" that I've yet to solve.

Robert Beales, born about 1785, was the great grandfather of my great grandfather, William James Beales. Robert and his wife Hannah (surname uncertain, but possibly May) had a number of children baptised in the church of St Peter and St Paul at St Osyth in Essex, or in nearby St Andrews, Weeley, between 1810 and 1827. Their names can be found in the baptism records on the search site*. Their eldest son, James, who is my direct ancestor, was born about 1816.

In the 1841 UK census the only Robert Beales of the right age living in the St Osyth area was married to Mary Ann, and they had an adult son, William, living with them. The same is true in 1851. What I'm still trying to discover is whether this Robert Beales is James Beales' father, or part of another family. And was William a brother to James, a cousin or half-brother, or unrelated?

It's quite possible that by 1841 Robert had remarried. Hannah's last two children were twins, Elizabeth and Benjamin, who lived only a few weeks after their birth in 1827. Perhaps she died in childbirth or soon after, though I can't find any record of her death.

The site has a marriage between a Robert Beales, widower, and "Merab" Farthing in St Osyth in July 1833. Could the strange first name be a poorly written "Mary Ann"? The date would be consistent with Hannah dying sometime soon after 1827.

According to the 1851 census William was born in St Osyth about 1819, which would fit in the gap between the birth of James and his next sibling Eliza, born about August 1820. The difficulty with adding William Beales to the list of Hannah's children is that his name doesn't appear among the baptisms recorded in the St Osyth area.

Was he perhaps born somewhere well beyond St Osyth? I can't find a baptism for any William Beales with a father named Robert anywhere in Essex, or the next county, Suffolk, between 1815 and 1825, even allowing for the various misspellings of Beales. Perhaps he was simply left unbaptised for some reason - some crisis in the family, or a period of dire poverty, for instance.

Nothing in William's own story gives any clues as to who his parents were. He enlisted in the 21st foot regiment in 1839, but was discharged a few months later after he lost the sight in  both eyes due to complications from smallpox, which is probably why he was still living with his father and mother (or step mother) as an adult. In 1852 he married Mary Ann Dale. (Sorry about the confusing repetition of first names!) He found employment as a broom maker. His army records don't name his parents, and his marriage certificate would only name his father, which doesn't help.

One detail that makes me think that William's father Robert may not be the same man as James' father is that William's father is described as a carpenter on the census records of 1841 and 1851. On most of the baptism records for Robert and Hannah's children Robert's occupation is given as labourer. Carpentry was a skilled trade that most people followed for a lifetime after being an apprentice. It would be unusual (though obviously not impossible) for a labourer to become a carpenter late in life.

For now, that's as far as I can go with solving this one. It doesn't affect my direct family line, but it would be nice to know where poor blind William fits in.

*For the record, the children of Robert and Hannah that I've been able to find are:
Hannah Beales 1810–
James Beales 1814–1887
Eliza Beales 1820–
Rebecca Beales 1825–
Elizabeth Beales 1827–1827
Benjamin Beales 1827–1827

Images: 1. Church of St Peter and St Paul, St Osyth, by Peter Stack
2. The chancel of St Peter and St Paul by John Salmon

Thursday, April 12, 2018

How did Harriet find her family?

One of the things I most enjoy about having a family history blog is the contact it provides with people from far and wide. It's always a thrill to find an email in my inbox from someone who has read my blog and found a connection with their own family. Often this is followed by both of us exchanging information and photos that we would never have come across through the normal methods of research.

But there's also a rapport that comes, if not from a shared ancestry, at least from a shared interest in family history. I have friends all over the world who I've never met, but still have something special in common with.

Last week I had the pleasure of actually meeting one of these people. He was in Australia for work and family reasons, and we spent a couple of hours sitting in a seaside cafe, drinking coffee and talking about a whole range of topics, including his great great grandmother, Harriet Whybrew. Harriet was sister to Eliza, my own great grandmother and was the original reason for us making contact.

Who brought up Harriet?

Despite the fact that we know quite a lot about Harriet, there are still some mysteries about her life yet to be solved.* The first is, who looked after her during her childhood. She was born in Adelaide in 1868, before her parents Susan Mason and David Whybrew were married. When the British army moved David back to England, Susan and their second daughter, Eliza, went with him, but two year old Harriet remained in Australia.

One story is that she was brought up by the Lindrum family. Frederick and Clara Lindrum were German migrants who ran a billiard hall in Adelaide. Their son Frederick married Harriet's cousin, Harriet Atkin. Walter Lindrum, the famous billiards player, is said to have visited Harriet at her home in England, causing quite a stir. So there were definitely connections between Harriet and the Lindrum family.

The difficulty I see with the idea that the Lindrums brought up Harriet is that Clara Lindrum was heavily pregnant with her own daughter when Harriet was born. The two girls were born only a month apart. It seems an odd time to be taking in another baby, unless Clara was able to feed two infants. Harriet may not have been handed over to the Lindrums at birth, of course. But there is also no official record of Harriet being fostered by the Lindrums, though it could have been a private arrangement.

If she wasn't brought up by the Lindrums, who did look after her? Records suggest that in her teens, her aunt and uncle, Mary Ann and Henry Atkin, were her guardians. This was after the death of Frederick Lindrum senior, and the disappearance of Clara (another unsolved mystery!) so it doesn't necessarily indicate that the Atkins had always been her carers.

When did Harriet leave Adelaide?

The next question about Harriet is how and when she travelled to England. She is mentioned several times in the newspapers in Adelaide during the 1880's, due to her regular appearances in court for "loitering" and other anti-social behaviour. The last mention I've found of her in Adelaide is in August 1885.

After this her name disappears from the records, and doesn't appear again until she was mentioned in an English newspaper in August 1888. By then she was back with her family in Colchester.

Harriet must have sailed to England, but when? Did she travel alone, or with someone else? Over the years that I've been researching her story, I've come up with all sorts of hypotheses about this, some wilder than others. So far I have found very little evidence for any of them.

Perhaps she was encouraged to rejoin her family by the Salvation Army, who were active in rescuing "girls at risk" in Adelaide at this time. They might have persuaded her to go back to her family. They might even have organised the travel arrangements for her. It would be interesting to know if the Salvation Army in Adelaide kept any records of who they helped. So far I haven't come across any, but I haven't contacted the SA directly.

Perhaps she was escorted by someone already known to her. Her father David left the army rather suddenly in 1885. Could he have travelled to Australia to bring his wayward daughter back to England? Given the cost of travelling even one way, and the financial situation of the Whybrew family, that seems unlikely. His name is not on any passenger lists in the UK or Australia.

Another of my wilder theories is that she might have been accompanied by Clara Lindrum. That would neatly explain Clara's disappearance from Australian records around the same time. Unfortunately neither Harriet's nor Clara's names appear on any official ships' list. Few of the UK incoming passenger lists from before 1890 have survived.

I found one tantalising possibility for Harriet's departure from Adelaide in this newspaper list of passengers departing aboard the Garonne in November 1886. The passengers included  a "Miss S Wybrow".

Harriet's name was often mis-spelled in the newspapers, so it's tempting to think this could be a typo.

However, it's much more likely that Harriet travelled the cheapest way, in steerage. If so, it's unlikely that her name would be mentioned in newspaper reports, since they usually only listed cabin and saloon passengers by name.

Unless I can think of some less obvious way of tracing her journey, I may never know when and how Harriet got to England. Does anyone have any suggestions?

*I'm currently working through some of the unsolved "mysteries and puzzles" in my family history, which is why I'm repeating information from previous posts.