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...