Search This Blog

Follow by Email

27 Aug 2014

Dibben my toes in Guernsey; fresh fish sustains marathon record hunt

The 3 Dibben sisters are daughters of Mary Speed born 1770 in Ansford, Somerset. I'd assumed they'd all died young, and even found some possible atrocious marriages in the Dorset parish registers or a death which seemed to fit of one of the girls in Shaftesbury, possibly in service. I had a nice tidy date of death for the father, too, at a modest 35. Wrong on all counts!

The Dibben girls were mostly born and all were brought up at, Tarrant Gunville, shortened to Gunville in the censuses I found out (eventually) somewhere in the area known as the Cranborne Chase. Much prettier than the Blackmore Vale, and somewhere my grandfather used to like taking us. There's a pretty airfield at Compton Abbas which we visited.

There was actually a fourth sister but she wasn't as interesting - for starters, her marriage is actually right there in the registers at Sturminster Newton, in plain sight. Ha - that was *not* the case for her three sisters, none of whom stayed in Dorset.

To begin at the beginning....

Does combing an entire island's records for Joneses sound completely bonkers? That is what I found myself doing after popping into Kew for 'an hour' to read two wills. Seven hours later I staggered into Kew Fish and Kebab Bar (somehow managing its two separate identities) for deep refuelling after a marathon hunt. It all started with: 'I give £50 to my niece Mary Jones of Guernsey'...

I quickly pinned down Mary, and her mother (born 1791 in Henstridge) to the island, and found aunt Elizabeth (missing from the 1851 census elsewhere) living with some of the family. I was annoyed, having searched for Elizabeth and the Henstridge lady on Ancestry, but neither entry showed up as they were in the Channel Islands. Ancestry doesn't always give you the answers first time round... I still feel the Guernsey leap is beyond most researchers, so feel proud of cementing the link.

(To put the hunt into perspective Guernsey has a similar population to Guernsey County, Ohio, a county which I must confess I'd never heard of!)

So, I had fun discovering that my Mary Dibben, who'd sat on my tree ignored by me for decades, had married a Mr Jones (no record found) and gone to live in Guernsey. All thanks to that will snippet.

I feared the whole island would be a black hole, as the census grabbed by Ancestry seems to be the only window on its world, and even that 'stops talking' after 1911. But incredibly, the whole island's civil registration records are on 3 tidy, titchy, microfilms in the LDS corner at Kew. I paid attention for a bit to the indexes then decided to fly solo. That's when I combed 13 years of deaths from 1891-1904 for any Jones mentions whatsoever. And boy did that pay off!

Jane Janes (widow) is listed in the English probate indexes with her heir as Salvator Leone. Oooh! Did she, I wonder, step out to Naples as a young woman, and rear a family in Italy? Are there still cousins swinging on the vines who own a nice bit of the south? Of course not: it was an autumnal marriage, perhaps in the US. Salvator was a charming and much-loved stepson, and a leading member of a crime gang in the (fictional) Grand Theft Auto series.

Neither Jane nor her mother, or 2 Dibben sisters of her mother, have marriages which turn up anywhere.

Aunt Jane Dibben said she was a spinster when she snared a Barrister of Chancery aged 38, so either she never married her first husband (a soldier) or she was 'keeping things simple' when she remarried. Aunt Rebecca Dibben was with her second husband for 3 weeks in total, but out of her 4 marriages, it was the only one that produced offspring. Possibly the long trip to the groom's home town of Cockermouth finished him off, while the tough bride gave birth and returned to Dorset simultaneously. Her son Abraham was later cuckolded by the Marquis of Bath's young cousin; the Baths cranked into action pretty swiftly. They talked young Thynne out of marrying the upstart Exeter girl; having the lady and her infant chaperoned out to sunny sweaty Australia for a nice life and at least a thousand pounds in the kitty. She would keep her mouth shut and just please to notify the solicitors when she was dead. Thynne bounced back though from his troubles, marrying the playwright Sheridan's twiglet and producing a bunch more Carteret Thynnes. Poor Abraham, whose birth was confusing enough, is found at the same hotel as his mother, in Brighton, stated as 'unmarried' and finally marries his housekeeper after news reaches England that he is at last a widower.

(There is just a chance that the father was Thynne's younger brother, who was spookily despatched to India six months later, on the very same boat that took care of the mother-and-baby! He was described as 'very good-looking' which sounds dangerous. He was dead within the year, and for good measure so was the boat, catching fire in Liverpool docks.)

Poshly-named Sophia Henrietta Carteret Thynne, born in London and technically the legitimate grandchild of Rebecca Dibben, became Sophia Henrietta Cartwright Goodfellow, a labourer's wife in colonial Australia. (No other births fit: I'll need the certificate to prove it.)

Contrastingly, Jane Dibben's illegitimate daughter Ellen Williams from the sticks became a very wealthy woman, still a catch age 40, with a £2000 marriage settlement, a lovely wedding in Cheshunt's flint-faced church, a cook, governess and housemaid and a husband working right on Covent Garden piazza. Life's not fair, is it?

(Her household gets an unexpected mention in a website about Gorran in Cornwall where her cook E Liddicoat hailed from. Very interesting diaries there by Mr Sanders, including by coincidence details of a fight where my Blacksmith Richards at Gorran twists someone's 'harm'.)

As to the Guernsey mob from Mary Dibben, I've set my sights on her daughter Mrs Tau-de-vin, a lovely Channel Islands name. I wrote to the Greffler of Guernsey who is passing me on to the Ecclesiastical Court, who like a bit of French in their work. I am hoping for a will to explain where the Taudevins disappeared to: they maybe became Toadvins. One son died in Queensland the same year as Jane Dibben's boy (who was actually a victim of foul play). I suspect coincidence, but all is not yet revealed.

I realise now why I failed to find Mary Dibben's death: it would have been indexed under her maiden name. Very confusing this island business of women keeping their maiden name: the Scots have a similar custom.

The elder Jones boy, another cabinet maker (like his cousin Robert Dowding), sailed for Tasmania in 1857 with his growing tribe and wife Emma Mary Ann Dale. Two junior Jones girls went out to Australia: Rebecca responded to extensive advertising and emigration agency work in the island to sail in 1854 on the government ship as a servant-maid knocking a few years off her age. Families with a preponderance of girls like the Joneses had priority. The clear motive from the Bishop of Adelaide was to curb crime and immorality resulting from large numbers of single men and unsuitable women! Rebecca arrived in October on an alcohol-free vessel which only saw one death. There would be poor harvest that summer, and it took her 6 years to find the promised husband - a shoemaker from Devon. Her younger sister went out later and married the widower of the Mount Barker Inn in the Adelaide Hills, age 36. The whole family were fertile fairly late, so this was not an obstacle.

The two lucky Guernsey girls attained very good ages in Adelaide and in Surrey Hills.

Here endeth the saga!
But not quite - Rebecca, who was first out the gate to Adelaide, chose to give her first boy the middle name of Welford...

24 Aug 2014

The X chromosome and its family history surprises

I learn recently that the X chromosome contains no material from a man’s father and none from your father’s father if you are a woman.  This leads to the curiously imbalanced chart below, which you will spot contains a Fibonacci pattern.

Table 1.  This table shows the contribution ancestors make to the total (pair) of X sex-chromosomes for a female: I have italicised the female’s father’s contribution.

In my family, the female (my mother)’s F-M-F-M-F-M (father’s mother’s father’s mother’s father’s mother)and F-M-M-M-F-M, are by complete coincidence, the same person, Elizabeth Cock born 1770 in Gwithian Sands, Cornwall.  Elizabeth accounts for three-eighths of the material on one of my mother’s X chromosomes, and thus three-sixteenths of my X chromosome.  This is either 12 or 24 times what she ‘ought’ to contribute being only 1 out of my 128 5xgreat-grandparents.

My X-chromosome is made up of my mother’s two X-chromosomes combined.  My Y-chromosome has been passed down from father to son, down to myself, so my father did not pass on to me an X chromosome.

My sisters have a second X-chromosome, from their father, which is made up of their paternal grandmother’s two X-chromosomes combined.  A stonking quarter of this comes from one lady, Ann Charlton, born 1785 in Whittonstall, south Northumberland, our 4xgreat-grandmother.  She is their F-M-F-M-F-M.  As there are 64 people in this generation, Ann is oversubscribed by a factor of 16, or of 8 – if you treat this X-chromosome as being strictly on the paternal side.  Were Ann to have other son’s daughter’s son’s daughter’s son’s daughters (which she does, the Embletons), we could in theory identify genes on the chromosome for which she was responsible.
As the pair of sex chromosomes are only 2 out of 46, the fact that some grandparents did or didn’t contribute makes very little difference overall.

I, Miss Dinah Widdows

As told to...

I, Miss Dinah Widdows do note the pitiful number of descendants which I have left. You can find many in family from my husband’s daughter Grace. Her poor mother died at 27 but she still has more in family than I.   I have lately been spending a month or more getting acquainted with them, and golly me, it took me by surprise to meet them all. I did not think they expected to see me, a lady born in 1712, one hundred years before Waterloo.  I also took a moment to look at my sister Sarah's family but I didn’t keep up with them. No sooner I contacted them then had another infant been born. They do say as one of her descendants is born every single week that passes. I don’t know. I can’t imagine looking at the girl why nature works so.  Now you will probably all be thinking that I am own sister to Martha Widdows, and you may know all about how she died, done in by her rotten husband.  Ha!  Well you would be wrong and mighty awkward it is navigating around the tree, I must say. Why I could barely find a record my even having been alive. Which I surely was, an I brought up that ungrateful Sarah and the silly brothers the Lord cursed me with. You would have to be a magician to know that I married George Dyke but even guesswork won’t tell you my father’s name. Oh no that is one secret which is very well kept. And if you find out where I was born well I wish you’d tell me. But no, I must grudgingly admit I am not of any genealogical consequence whatsoever.  I had 2 or 3 very good grandchildren, I let them disappear from the records without trace. I tried asking the earth but I’m not getting any answers, even my other sister who never fussed about getting married, even she managed to produce grandchildren who stayed in the records. Oh well tut tut. You see there are matriarchs or fat old queen bees as I call ’em! Even among Sarah’s offspring.  But what’s this I see.  A GenesReunited message saying my grandson George got off his hindquarters and sired a massive breed?  And now here’s FindMyPast trying to tell me granddaughter Martha went off and kept an inn in Emeld Empsty.  And Google shouting that the US Ambassador’s wife was a Miss Dyke, one of George’s lot.  That’s something little Miss Sarah can’t boast about.  Well now I can sleep in peace.

Dinah and Sarah named in the will of Edward Murrow, Almesforde, Somerset 1732.  Lots of information about Sarah, but nothing on Dinah.

17 Aug 2014

What a difference a decade makes

Censuses can baffle.  A happy family all living together in 1871 in Kyo, Durham were topsy-turvy in-between times and all squeezed up together with barely any shared constituents in 1881.  The surviving thread was Sarah Ann Southern.

1871 Kyo, Durham
William Southern, wife Ann, child Sarah Ann

1881 County Durham
Ann Southern (widow), daughters Sarah Ann, Elizabeth Ann

It appears the two Anns were the same, but no!  The ages nor the birthplace, neither match.  Ann was the *second* wife of William.  So in the space of ten years - a child had been born, the first wife died, a second wife arrived and the father died.  Whew - good going Southerns!

In Norfolk, Maria Haythorpe's long-awaited death fails to appear, she marries John Brown moments before her death and he remarries, it seems even as the clock chimes the census enumerator's visit.  Not a clue left of that brief relationship.

In Cornwall, Elizabeth Davies of Hayle helpfully lived with her aunt Sally the entire time, who had a rare name and made pinning them down pretty easy.  One of her daughters married in Dorset, and we're still hunting the other one (Mary).  Elizabeth herself doesn't reveal her death easily - till we find that she too made a deathbed marriage, and is buried under this name - without passing a census year on the way through.
Picture my surprise at learning our respected uncle Joseph Carline was at the centre of a bitter custody battle over a deceased infant when he was very definitely a grandfather and a widower - or so I thought! Kindly Joseph was a widower in 1861 and on 1871, but not in-between. He'd raced up the aisle of crooked spire Chesterfield church knowing that any child he produced would inherit the sickly bride's lands, even apparently if it later died. He got to work and by 1871 the whole episode had gone, wife, son, land, Chancery case. Until I hauled the surprising paperwork out from the Cheshire mine some time last year. Curiously, his actual grandson a Ford worker at Dagenham was given the infant heir's name and died fairly recently.
In Somerset, widow Ann Brown was happily living with her children Frecia and Effie and others in 1871.  Ring - bong - all change.  In 1881 the family have apparently reconstituted as:
1881 Ditcheat: William Stride, wife Rachel, stepchildren Annie and Ellen Brown!

What exactly has happened in between!  Only three events have happened this time 'tween the enumerators' call, though we have apparent name changes to deal with. Can you tell what's gone on?

11 Aug 2014

Diocese of Durham wills go online at FamilySearch

I was able to go back one or two generations with my Gibsons of Colwell Farm, Chollerton, up north of the wall in Northumberland.  The diocesan wills covering the period from late mediaeval times up until 1857 were indexed some years ago at North East Inheritance, a University of Durham project, and for years there was no news at all, as the original publication date of 2010 receded deeper into the distance.

The will of my ancestor Lancelot Gibson the first, dated 1789, proven 1794, show show brutal the choices were for people.  His eldest son having died, the widow was given the choice of arguing that the farm should go to her son, or taking the money with a large number of conditions - children were to be well behaved with a keen eye watching them from age of 14 upwards; Ann was not to remarry; she was to conduct herself and not to ever challenge the ownership of the family farms.  Then, and only then, when the boys reached 21 they would get £50 between them and the girl would get a fiver.  In addition though, Gibson would provide for their education (if warranted) and give them somewhere to live.

This useful document ties together a number of the family, and finally explains who Lancelot Gibson Dobinson was.  I'd noticed him in the GRO indexes, but a cursory investigation, which must have been extremely cursory, ruled him out as being of interest.  How wrong was that!  He is a great-great-grandson of Lance the first.

Another useful dataset well worth waiting for.

Dates of birth from 1900 to 1916

Unless you're very likely and have inherited the family's birthday book with all the birthdates of everyone who ever popped in to say hello, birthdates can be hard to find.

Birthdates are helpfully given in the indexes of deaths taking place here since 1969.

Why are they useful?  Well, take my relative Jessie Smith.  By finding her birthdate (from the London parish registers at Ancestry), I was able to pick out her death entry very easily, even though she had got married and changed her name in the meantime.

I've used a birthdate to help prove people are related, including Caroline Jones who lived to be over 100 - I was initially rather suspicious of this, but the family bible confirmed the birthdate given at her death.

Another source of birthdates was published last month, the names of minor children given when soldier's registered to fight (Enlisted) in World War One.

Among those was William Chappell of Penzance, whose daughters' birthdates are both given.  Also Charles Chipperfield of London Docklands - in this case the daughters' birthdates helped me bypass the fact they married under subtly different names.

Grandmother's special connection with her son's daughter

There's a few articles explaining why a grandmother is specially close to her son's daughter.  The granddaughter has 1 pair of sex chromosomes (so 1/12 of the total) and of that pair, one of those (1/24 of the total) is an exact copy of her grandmother's.  An X chromosome has been passed down intact through the two generations.

It's calculated in total the granddaughter has 26% of her DNA from her paternal grandmother, not much extra, but a little extra closeness built in.  A quick look seems to suggest that the little girls only get 24% of their DNA from their father's father, but I've not verified the numbers.  However they often get his surname, so hopefully that balances it all out a bit.

image from:
Nice animation on unrelated genetic topic about flies:

Facebook's useful experiment for family historians is closed

In 2012 Facebook offered you the chance to message its users for 65 pence, if they were not already your Facebook-friend.  I found this pretty useful and sent messages off to my future housemate (who didn't know me), plus a new cousin in Sydney and one in rural Massachusetts.

The pennies spent guaranteed my Hello would reach their Facebook inbox and not go to a hidden folder.

I had great responses from Sydney and rural MA, and consider it money better-spent than had I dusted down the stamps and posted a big long letter.  In the event, the cousin in Sydney never replied to the Facebook message, but tracked me down on my website and sent me an email.

So a good experiment. Update, 2015, it's back and boy have I made use of it.