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31 Oct 2014

Would woods yield wood connection?

The Kentish Weald is heavily wooded, with coppiced hazel, wild cherry, ash and oak formed in a series of 'shaws' no matter the approach you are at once shielded and navigating around one of Britain's superior natural resources.

It was wonderful passing through in a taxi, as I headed, but little did I know, closer and closer to the man in the family who knew more about wood than any other.  My great-great-great-uncle William Smith (1851-1921).  Long dead, his likeness was preserved at the rendezvous in Kent where I was to learn more about the family archive.

To reprise William's story, earlier given, he took his £180 (minus tax) on the nose at 21 and was getting married a matter of days later.  His only remaining relative, his father, was not in a position to refuse him.  He took the money from Mr Riches who ironically had booted the family out of their birthplace, Mulbarton Hall, just ten years earlier.  His trade was carpentry and the village of Jamestown, USA, population 5,336, and not yet a city was eventually to become 'furniture capital of the world' with one in six people working at its furniture factories.  His wife's uncle Jonathan Crick had arrived forty years earlier and was living in the tiny village of Gerry, NY, just nine miles away.

What a delight to find his smiling countenance on good quality black card with the name of the photographer 'Black', likely taken around 1900.  He looks very similar to his nephew Frank Lowry, himself about to emigrate - to farm in South Africa.  These gentlemen, together with Smith's great-uncle and benefactor, John Lain, all share my mitochondrial DNA.

If anyone has a high-speed internet, perhaps they could check if the Black photographic studio is listed in this 1903 Jamestown directory.  Found the reference: T. Henry Black, studio over 12 E 3rd, house over 20 Derby.

There was a William Smith who was a plasterer in Jamestown and returned to England 1886 with a woman named Sarah, to Barnsley Yorkshire.  Coming back to Jamestown their ship the SS Oregon sunk off the coast of Fire Island.  I am not yet convinced this was our William.  The 1880s directories should provide an answer.

William's obituary of 1921 correctly recalls he had one brother and three sisters, an unusual combination.  But it is the survival in our family of his photograph that proves it all.  I had independently figured out the Jamestown connection some while ago, and as we earlier saw, it is pretty water-tight.  It remains to be seen if his family in Florida and upstate NY will want to know more about his origins in England.

Best photographer in town:
Joyce, Pauline Lopus tells the story in Lucy & Desi: A Home Movie, and in her autobiography Lucy (Lucille Ball 1911-89) herself writes, "...DeDe [her mother] sent me to the best photographer in Jamestown, T. Henry Black. It was Mr. Black who was quoted as saying, 'It's very difficult to get a satisfactory picture of Miss Ball because the lady is just not photogenic!'" (p. 30) The pictures Lucy references are from when she was in the Miss Celoron bathing beauty contest as a teenager.

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