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25 Dec 2014

Sketches of rural Somerset 1860s by James West


There are more like this. This may be in Butleigh or Glastonbury.

20 Dec 2014

Split lines: finding half-kin in the family tree

My grandfather having three male half-cousins complicated the tree. Where did they sit? Their grandchildren were somewhere between 3rd cousins and 4th cousins.  Though as is always the way with these special relationships, they were reasonably close: closer than my grandmother was to most of her cousins, that's for sure.

The presence of half-kin in the tree turned out to be exceptionally rare.

Padfield: the love match of Joseph and Mary, 1794, produced all the Padfield family that we knew about, and even more besides once we'd learnt beloved Joe had a posthumous son with plentiful offspring. Both the couple brought shady daughters to the marriage, from previous spouses, who were never mentioned, and whose innumerable descendants were either miners or impoverished printers. Half-kin to be ignored.

Rapson: Margaret Trewhella had such an incredible name that her mother's, Miss Thomas, disappointed. That was until we learnt the young widow had had nine further children with a second husband. Somehow these seemed even more exotic and cohesive than Margaret's own full brother. One was associated with a poisoned Cornish pasty and with a male wizard; another had a boy Jack Rapson whose distinctive likeness reminded us strongly of Grandpa. Another may have been the wool sempstress whose mill provided the workings of Eliza's tapestry, 1820s. And a branch of these came to settled in my rural mid-Devon where I spent a few seasons 'on the land', away from the tedious seaside. Half-kin to be explored.

Dinah: this time round a previous marriage netted us only one half-sibling, Dinah. Listed as a grandchild of seventeenth-century farmer Ed: Murrow, it took some skilful weaving of documents to establish she was Elizabeth's eldest child, and thus half-sister to all four Speed children. She had only one child, too, and having succeeded her aunt in her husband's affections was liable to be cast out of the family unit. History atones for put-upon Dinah, numbering among her descendants, a canon in Leicestershire, a gloving hero, the late châtelaine of du Maurier's Menabilly and the wife of Thatcher's Ambassador in Washington. Half-kin to be fêted.

Mary Lane: I spent a holiday wrapping up the last of Thomas Creed's nine children, two of whom married in London.  We always knew he'd had an illegitimate daughter born just after marriage. He had wisely not married the mother, who went on to have another child by his cousin, a few years later. The baby girl was pinned down, despite having the wrong name listed on her marriage, by the modern-day parish clerk of Butleigh, Somerset at  Predictably we are immediately in a realm of farm labourers, shoe workers, painters and sometime publicans. Half-kin by whom to be bored.

Gorran Churchtown: like roses in winter, a new branch was made known to us on the Lowry side. Our Henry Lowry died in 1861 leaving no siblings, just a stepmother. His father had recently died, leaving the widow and also two half-sisters. These half-sisters were the children of Henry's grandfather, also lately deceased, by his wife a woman from Gorran. With the birth and death of Henry's half-sister when he was 35, these Gorran-women were the only other family from our branch of the Lowrys. The elder girl was sent to her mother's people at Gorran where she married her uncle's heir, William Williams Richards, no direct relation, blacksmith, also, in Gorran churchtown. Only one child continues the line, a third Henry. His children went to Barry in Wales, to Liverpool and there is still a remnant in Cornwall. We never knew them, and they don't know their Lowry lineage. Half-kin to be educated.

Jennet: gift from rural Wales. My Welsh side is dominated by towns; and the danger of leaving these  nineteenth-century monoliths is you are then plunged into a pre-surname obscurity with no leads or clues at all. Jennet saves us from this fate, and provides us with the liminal limberland of rural Wales waking up to its potential.  A single will knives through the impassable chronology: Elizabeth Morgan (Pengilly) in 1825. A devout Methodist and family lady she reveals the presence of half-kin eventually proven to be children of her mother, Jennet. It was while basking in Bat'umi on the Black Sea coast that I finally found a descendant of his kinnagery, who told me she was the fourteenth Jennet. A line from half-sister Gwenllian dies out in the 1990s. And half-brother Rees loses his exciting granddaughter another Jennet to disease in the 1840s, leaving no heirs.  Half-kin needing to be located.

Eleanor: another great half-sister. Her vibrant genes kept her going long after her brothers had all died. She was listed as matriarch in the 1861 census with a Gibson grandson, a Gibson nephew and apparently a Gibson stepfather. It was all most puzzling. It seems the son took the name Gibson so he could inherit property from his half-uncle, who had a smallholding nearby.  The mists above the Tyne cleared and we learnt that Ellen was the child of Ann Charlton before her marriage to Lancelot Gibson. Thus Ellen, through her census entries, was revealing the place of origin of her mother, who had died long before the censuses came out. So we are glad of the extra characters, the south Northumberland ancestral line and the help she provided. Half-kin to be venerated.

Bohemia: this fantastic name is surely connected to Behenna, and unlikely to be any connection at all to the ancient province in Germany. We decided our ancestor Jane Bohemia would be a hardy perennial if she were planted in a family allotment. Little did we know that she too hid a split-line family of descendants.  Way back in the 1990s I corresponded with a Colonel Morley in the US, and suggested from the naming pattern that Jane might have remarried to a second Hambly and produced a number of offspring including Morley's forebear. This was strongly refuted and a marriage in far-off Duloe posited as the correct one for the pair.  It is sometimes nice to outlive wrong-headedness. For two years ago I became aware of the will of Jane Hambly junior which would shed light on this story from 250 years earlier. Indeed Jane Bohemia must have married secondly to William Hambly, brother of relative of her first, Hugh, and gone on to have children with him, including a Hugh and Jane. When Jane died she referred to her Hunter niece, a relationship which fits only with this explanation. So Jane Bohemia's place and story in the garden is now ready to be told. Half-kin belatedly.

Barton: unexpected fruit of my sudden determining of James Carline's parents was the will of his grandfather, available dead easily at Kew. This grandfather's estate duty abstract was sufficiently detailed to list my forebear Mary and her half-kin John Barton of Stapleford and Sarah Henderson? of Matlock. I am not quite sure how I stumbled on tumble-down James and Mary Carline (sr)'s relationship and inferred they'd not baptised a second son, James. Naming patterns fitted as did the later discovery that James had married his first cousin, whose siblings twice performed the same feat.  The half-kin like the curate's egg had family who were digestible in small doses. One line found in England dies out leaving its money to a cousin's son, Arthur Greasley whose connection goes back to pre-1837. This Arthur is found on his bicycle in an online photographic archive, and his son's cruel treatment of a housekeeper also survives on the pages of the web. There are doubtless other tales to be told. We end where we began. Half-kin: unexpectedly.

Moses: to borrow from a spiritual, way up in Cumberland, let my Moseses go! One of this family became Duchess of St Albans. The old patriarch Joseph Moses of Morland Hall Farm eclipsed his wives and it would be unapparent to an observer which one was the mother of his children. In fact my line is from the Scottish Margaret, while two half-sisters were produced from a union with his cousin, Mary Moses. Hannah the elder daughter was known to plant pear trees. Mary the younger daughter was finally proven to have married a Dickinson after a number of circumstantial clues were collected together.  She married very wisely and slowly, unlike the sister who rushed into servitude. From this line come rather slowly, the Thompsons, like tortoises peeking out of their shell, of whom E P is best known. With the death of old Moses, my people were free to escape to western Northumberland, to the exact centre of Britain's landmass, to begin a new chapter in their lives. There remain half-kin, to be counted.

In the catalogue of forebears of mine who had issue by more than one person, I should acknowledge the fact the following male menfolk had had first wives who either died childless or had infant children which died, or who came along for a pivotal role later on: William Bond, William Bagshaw, William Francis, John Airey, James Lowry, Lancelot Gibson. And best stepfather award goes to John Johnson of Old Town. Henry Smith and Samuel Flowers provided stepmothers of greater or lesser degree.  I ought to acknowledge the support and enthusiasm of my own half-kin in compiling this research.