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21 Feb 2015

Miss Rebecca's Men: the publican and the soldier

Rebecca Dibben was born in the village of Tarrant Gunville, Dorset in 1794. Aged 20, her first child was born on the island of Guernsey, about 1814, and was given her mother's name.

Rebecca must surely have married the child's father, but this is not the only missing marriage in the family. We cannot find marriages for her sister Jane nor sister Mary either, although both have many descendants.

It was only last week I found the identity of this first husband, Mr Cox, by first name Thomas and as you can see from the below image, he was an innkeeper.

I have combed through the Death duty records for the period 1812 to 1824 looking for a suitable Thomas but not found him.  There was an innkeeper of this name operating in Crediton, Devon, 1815-1821 but he may have been the 50yo Thomas Cox who dies in the parish ten years later.

Cox was the first family member in Guernsey. There were Coxes later to marry Rebecca's cousin W Burge, who came from Child Okeford. Some of this family are thought to have settled in Guernsey, specifically Samuel Drake Cox, who appears in online searches.

Rebecca's second husband was the unlucky Abraham Mackreth of Cockermouth. Barely three weeks after the marriage he is dead, but Rebecca is/was already carrying his child and he is born either at Cockermouth with her hostile in-laws, or at Sturminster Newton where her own family lived. 
Mackreth and Rebecca's son was very unlucky in love, too. He married the dazzling Charlotte Quick of Kenton, Devon not far from his stepfathers' (sic) home in Ringwood. However seven years and no children later, Charlotte began to make other arrangements for the security of her genetic burden!

She fell for the Norfolk-born Thynnes who were no apparent connection with the titled variety, later Marquises of Bath. However, they each duped the other. She said her maiden name was Glendinning, well that was originally her mother's rather grand name. He pretended they were heirs to the Carterets as the London Thynnes certainly were.

It all had to end, and Thynne who was actually now or later in the Royal Artillery was told to leave Charlotte alone. Charlotte was chaperoned with baby Sophia out to Australia in 1856 with her younger brother ensuring she arrived safely. Once there, it seems there was little family contact. She had a nice lump sum of money keeping her going and lived for another 25 years or so out in the barren cultureless sun. Baby girl marries twice and has a few descendants. 'Carteret' becomes, as I'd originally guessed, 'Cartwright'.

Meanwhile back in England, Mackreth junior was living with his housekeeper and when word finally came in of Charlotte's death, he married her. Thynne had married in 1858 but had no surviving issue by his real wife, dying in Norfolk, perhaps wondering where baby Sophia had gone. He had wanted to keep her as the evidence of the unusual birth certificate suggests, but likely Charlotte's family had Quickly disposed of that notion.

Dignity was saved.

The snip of the marriage certificate for Rebecca Cox's happy marriage to Mr Buggins doesn't reveal his occupation, bath house keeper on the Brighton coast. Odd that being totally naked with strangers was deemed normal by Victorians, but staying with the woman or man you loved was deemed utterly disgraceful.

17 Feb 2015

Will: 'You still need me'

Some wills are great.  And some don't tell you anything at all.
I had been waiting for the Norris will for a while - safe in the knowledge it'd fix a few mysteries for me.  Nope.  We still have no idea what happened to the nephew that had the papermill in Australia.

This week at exactly midnight - eleven wills dropped into my inbox.  I was already asleep (brownie points there), but at 7am you bet I woke up fast.  A whole bunch of them were frustrating or just plain brief, but the Edith Taylor will was surely the best of the bunch.

The last known of three siblings - my question was 'who is going to get your money?'  Not only does she start me on a hunt for her globe-trotting twin brother, but she throws me a nice chewy bone naming some of her cousins' kids as well.

Of course the price has changed.  What I spent in those precious dawn seconds, was what it cost me to get 2 years' worth of wills at one a week, back in the old days.  Well, my old copies aren't going anywhere, and aren't telling me much of anything new either.

When it comes to solving tricky family puzzles: 'Will', I definitely still need you.

Disclaimer: I didn't actually go to Italy.

Long journey: Birds and Family Members Always Come Home

Some searches have you going through the wringer on your way to adding a twig properly onto the tree.  This parish magazine from Shropshire is charmingly online, and answers at a swoop who 'Major Roberts' was - listed in a family obituary.  Although born in Wolverhampton her parents brought her back to Shropshire to be baptised.
Barbara G Walker is not an obvious addition to the tree, at first.  By and large we are churchgoers and hardline feminism hasn't won many supporters on this side of the pond.  However, peeking back into Barbara's (ironically, male) forebears - we see signs of plenty of strong women, who would give Barbara their strongest backing as she ploughs a very difficult furrow.  Maybe her extremism 'grabs male territory' so that most women can live their lives with a bit more freedom than the generation before.
Cordelia Fuller was one of those mysteries of a dozen years or more.  (And explanation has still not come in of who exactly Cordia lived with in the mid-west back then.)  Eventually I did not find her marriage by checking under her maiden name, but by waiting for her descendants, the Smiths, to post a tree on Ancestry.  Which they did.  Here is the original will, photostatted in 2000.
And here the photo of Cordelia as an older lady in the Smiths' heartwarming book, Ocean Depths.  The family still live and are based in Kansas and the mid-west.

Italy: From Stranger to Native

Mocked routinely in reference to their wartime episode, this young nation is unfairly maligned for enjoying life and for a culture where ordinary people treat each other with respect and courtesy.

For the first time this week, I feel I can get under its skin, and explore it from a native's perspective.
This time yesterday I had no idea about the next photograph.  Like a lion closing in on its kill, I now have the whole story trapped in my pretty jaw.  I had never previously thought much of Italy. The grey skies of Santa Margherita La Figueres and its doomy town were enough to put me off forever.  But really, this is because I do not like the seaside.  Introduce me to the mountain slopes and I am fast interested.  I approached this will with scepticism:
'I leave to my niece Alice Barone or her husband Raffaele Barone the residue of my estate' - Edith Taylor
This lady won't be Italian (example)! Any more than the Corleones are Italian, or Papa John's Pizza, or sodding Dolmio sauce.  Or perhaps more appositely, Ragu.

I braced myself to comb through directories of retired Italian Americans in Florida and outer New York state.  Still no sign of Alice Barone.  Was she in fact, an actual Italian?

The 1929 shipping record showed: Arthur Taylor, 45, secretary (YMCA), sailing from England to New York giving an address in Rome - that's Rome in Italy to give it the space on the page it deserves.

Subsequent shipping records coughed up the proof that Arthur Taylor of Italy was indeed born in Windermere.  And here he is, we think, outside the property he loved, on the slopes of the Alps.  Not a grey cloud in sight, and definitely no cagoules or misleading palm trees (take note Santa Margherita!).
The very same weekend, I determined to find if cousin Caroline was still living in Italy.  She was preposterously easy to find - as no doubt she intends.  She runs a guesthouse.  The guesthouse contained the most complicated set of directions I have ever seen.  Coming from the other way?  'I can't be bothered to type it all out backwards so follow your nose and call me from the church.'
 The power of three is a well known literary device.  Forgive if my heart isn't in it, at all.  Yes this is the Third Italian Connection.  I would much prefer to go back to the alps, to the first one and find out a lot more about the folks in Pinerolo.  What was wartime like there - why did their only girl go to Sicily and does anyone remember her?  Who were her childhood playmates.  And, yes, if you're still interested here is the third connection.
Sadly the Merifields had no family.  I am sure the Landuccis had a great story to tell - but it isn't mine, quite.

Forgotten Times: Are They Gone?

Ethel Robinson was an unmarried cousin.  I needed to find her death record, and ideally some biographical content.  Maybe this is her after all?
Nearly 70 years after this family left Somerset for Australia, the property names still evoked hamlets and villages within their ancestral county.  Interesting too, that they wended their way to Adelaide's grandest of its many churches.  But small chance the generation today will be able to so neatly integrate themselves with their past.
To my shame I have not yet purchased this book.  It writes in a readable and relevant way about a WW2 hero, an intelligent perhaps awkward young man, whom so many 20th century figures managed to get to know.  He was doomed to be my cousin from the very moment his grandfather downed tools as a grocer in Cumberland and began his long journey to be a minister in India.
Conradi's book wakes up the memories of three of Thompson's cousins: two died in Italy, and the third might have lost part of her reason for living there too.  Here is her peaceful stone in a lovely English setting.  In the book these people are animated again briefly.  In this quiet spot, perhaps it will be possible to remember them once more, far from the mad rushing of nearby towns.
It feels a very long, cold, time since 1855.  A very long time indeed, especially in Ireland, where anything prior to 1865 really is the dark ages.  Somehow this record from donkey-drawn cart days peopled by sons of Cromwell, has trickled down to us.  It is a pretty thin streak of trickle, but as nearly as we can be sure - is my great-grandfather's aunt marrying Mr Brodie.   Ballyporeen is on the road out of Mitchelstown to Waterford, crossing a couple of county borders along the way.

The Brodies were one of the first of our family out in Boston: they had plenty of time to get out there before the Civil War, although I think they did not take advantage of this.  Despite all this, Miss Loretta Brodie features in our family journal from before the war, and was still alive not so long ago.

Rejoicing comes as I finally press the right buttons on Google, and out comes tumbling one of the Brodies' granddaughters, Annie Dwyer Amico, whose obituary shows she has plenty of real children that are a direct link back to the marriage on the Waterford road.

Instagram and Family History

Apple products have never really wowed me.  It's hard to grab text from a webpage now, with an iPad, so I tend to take screenshots.  And I thought maybe to put these screenshots on an Instagram account.  But it's easier, once a month to place them on Google Drive, and then use my PC to put them on a regular hard-drive the old fashioned way.  And maybe go back in and take PDFs of webpages in order to truly capture the text.  (However, text files are among the most unwieldy of the lot, as you cannot control the formatting.)

So, let's hear it for Instagram anyway!  A blurred cheer.  I was fairly sure this lady was my cousin.  I followed her progress as she said she was going to England (an example of the classic 'future in the past' grammatical tense).  I saw her itinerary screenshotted as a Google Map, and there on the route was the rural south of England.  Bingo!

There is no way this west coast jetsetter would have gone to this sparsely-peopled area were it not for a certain great-aunt.  Flicking through the Instagram pages, there she was.  The 4th cousin in California visits the last of the Lowrys in England.  Well, almost the last, as my grandmother is still alive too.  She seemed pretty old when I last wrote in 1992.  This lady put me onto all the rest of the cousins.

If anyone else has used Instagram for family history, let me know...  This is a really stunning photograph, by the way.

Newspapers: Shock and Ordinary

I found two of my relatives were at pivotal points in history.  In 1880, one saw Ned Kelly hang in a Melbourne gaol.  He more than saw him hang, he legitimised it.  In 1970, one (actually a relative on the same branch) re-enacted aspects of the Vietnam war in some quiet Quebec suburb.  His purpose presumably to encourage people not to kill each other.  Both generated plenty of copy for newspapers along the way.

It is the third article that is the most interesting to me.  It is not about young men fighting to get the truth or not to fight, but an older man realising he wants to give even more back to the community.  As I put in the snip - the Washburns have become part of the town life of Jamestown; but when their progenitor, William Smith arrived from England in 1872, he could so easily have disappeared on the vast continent.  Thanks to him sending a photograph, from a Jamestown studio, many years later, we do know he is the same man.  We wish the Washburns well and enjoy reading about the homely nature of our cousins' lives there.  Thanks to the newspaper.