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28 Feb 2016

European Genealogy across 13 countries - a story starting in the Lakes

  I idly wondered whether Arthur Taylor, living in London age 18, might come back to marry in his native Keswick.  He did!
And on clicking behind the link I spy his wife looked like Isabel Kroll.  This didn't sound like a lasting marriage.  What was he up to?  But I couldn't find anything more, so gave up on him.

But then I found a reference to a lady living in Italy, who just had to be Arthur's daughter, and the game was on.  Arthur turns out to be the International YMCA's 'man in Italy' while Mussolini is at the helm.
It takes me a good year to recover from these Italian revelations before I finally get the will of Arthur Taylor's daughter, Signora Barone.  I certainly expected that the dalliance with Isabel Kroll would long have past, but concluding Alice's long and passionate will comes the note from the clerk...

And then, buried in the text, Isabella's mother is listed with a very English-looking name, Rosalie Stuart-Cowen!  I already knew about Scots in Poland, but Scots and Germans (?) seemed to hold an interesting tale to explore.  Considering I lacked both Isabella's birth, death and previous marriage, it was remarkable what I eventually crowbarred out of the internet.

Here is Isabella's first marriage, which I did not find by idle Googling, but only by the specific search indicated.
Here is Isabella's tree now.

The following countries are covered on the map below
England - where Isabel married in 1907
Denmark - where Isabel's first husband was born (place given as father's birthplace in 1920 census for her elder children)
Sweden - where her daughter Anna's son Hans was a citizen in 1954, likely as an adopted child, and believed to be his final home
Poland - where Isabel's second husband worked in the 1920s after WW1
Netherlands - where Isabel's sister Georgina was living until about 1900 (at The Hague)
France - where Isabel's two elder children (and grandson Hans) were born (Paris, Vaux-sur-Mer)
Italy - where Isabel's second husband worked in the 1930s and where her younger daughter (Alice) settled (in Sicily)
Switzerland - where Isabel's mother died in 1890 (unsubstantiated) and where her sister Rosalie died in 1927 and where her sister Georgina married (in Lausanne)
Germany - where Isabel's sister Rosalie married in 1883 (at Stuttgart), and where she herself was born (source 1920 census), and where her father was born (ibid)
Greece - where her first husband went to live, presumably after separating from Isabel
Canada - where Isabel's youngest child was born in 1908
USA - where Isabel was living in the 1920 census (Washington DC), while her second husband performed his YMCA duties, and where her two elder children settled, and where her mother was actually born
Brazil - where her grandson Hans (John) came to reside or work in the 1950s
What a surprise to tumble out of a marriage in the Lakes.  Lastly a picture of gorgeous Giarrattana in Sicily:
 This was the second Sicilian connection to emerge.  As well as Il Dottore Barone from Noto, I have Signor Leone from Naro a century before.  Agreeably close to Montalbano's fictional Vigata, which I watched sorrowfully in the denouement to this Sicilian episode.  But as Sicily recedes, step forward Malta - even further south, as new home for a descendant of Annabella Airey.

23 Feb 2016

Two little bits of paper

So I got back on Sunday after a few days' away, and the Office for National Statistics had pushed a brown paper mountain through my door, for £37.

What really mattered were the two little bits of paper.

It is not often that news from the 1870s has me carpeting Facebook friends with panicked news. But that's what happened here.

These dear certificates resolved a decade-long battle to find the whereabouts of Charlotte Smith, born 1880 in Norfolk, and Eva Walker, born 1897 in Swansea.

Like the very best of horoscope readers, all that was required to sort things out was a date of birth. Two dates of birth on the two bits of paper.

Charlotte is then searched for on the 1939 Register, and appears as Mrs Campbell living in a mansion flat on Battersea Park.

Eva is then also searched for on the 1939 Register, and appears as Mrs Purcell a widow living of all places in Kidderminster, a part of the Midlands nearest to the Welsh Marches.

Both ladies had married age forty, three counties away from their birthplace, which made them hard to spot.  Both actually had families.

Charlotte's London family are an absolute joy and we're seeking to reunite them with their first cousins elsewhere in the capital.

Charlotte in particular was my most missing relative, in an army of people "who we don't really talk about" which included her father, grandfather, and most of her grandfather's (overly sexed, illiterate) relatives.

Eva has also kept me guessing; but, no longer. I shall have to scout around for new missing relatives, as so much of the post- Victorian era has been resolved.

Thanks to birthdates, the 1939 Register and those, now screwed up, bits of paper.

17 Feb 2016

John Lain of Diss

Sometimes in family history you are sent hurtling back hundreds of years in a moment.  In the posh, Eastern-Europeaned waitress environment of the Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells, trees had crept up on the native commonland, formerly scrub and heath.  I was suddenly confronted with the photograph of the architect of our family's fortunes whose sexy charm had persuaded the furious widow, Mrs Riches, to part with her senses - and her hallowed hall, in his favour.

Finally spotting his countenance, my first thought was 'African!'.  We see him here, presumably in his eighties, tediously dolled up for a photograph at Diss.  Diss is renowned for disappointment in our family.  Lain's great-great-great-niece turned up here in the 1990s, a Cockney, to see where her Dad was born.  But it was the wrong town.

Water summarises Diss and its region in the Waveney Valley.  You are never far away.  There are nature reserves at South Lopham, the family's home of the 1860s, and here the Waveney itself begins on its journey to Oulton Broad and the world at large.

John Lain too is the author of our journey as a family.  Born while the ink was drying in America, on its constitution, and in Vienna, on Don Giovanni (1787) he also made his mark.  His will shows his over-arching influence over now divided families - too distant even for me to claim.  His nephew has over a thousand descendants in Utah, while his nieces' complex tales are out of scope for my own enquiries.

At 28 he marries the widow Riches, 20 years his senior and provides a home for the, soon pregnant, Mary, his niece allowing her to remain after she marries the babyfather, Smith.  Mary remains his closest relative, and Lain provides for the Smiths.  It is fitting that his photograph should appear - of course unlabelled! - in the family trunk at Tunbridge.

15 Feb 2016

Yorkshire short-arse nails Chinatown gunslinger

Son of West Pennard, Somerset and Reeth, Yorkshire delivers a thunderclap to Chinatown

The witness to the prosecturion of 'Big Jim' (Chew Wing Gow) was born at Abersychan, Monmouthshire in 1874 the eldest child of the mythical 'third sister' of my great-grandpa Bert Creed's father William, that I had hitherto not known about.  The Creeds were tall, and this man being a short-arse, is surely testimony to his Yorkshire father?
"It was after 4 oclock when the name of Percy Hammond-Bell was called by the attorneys for the prosecution, and a short, slender young Englishman, wearing eyeglasses and having a very decided accent took the stand. Mr. Hammond-Bell said that he had come to Southern California from England last January, and is at present stopping with an English family named Sheldon, at 616 West Sixth street. He is not employed at any profession or calling, but is a medical student and journalist. In this city he was devoting his time to acquiring the Chinese language and studying their customs and life, with a view to writing a series of magazine articles when he went back to England. He had been employing a Chinese tutor at No. 220 Marchessault street, and was often in and about Chinatown. On the night of the shooting of Wong Chee he left his residence about 8 oclock and walked to Chinatown, stopping at one or two places on the way. He was on his way to the Marchessault street store and was crossing Alameda on the former thoronghfare when Chee was shot, not thirty feet from him. The witness said he had not yet reached the railroad tracks in crossing the street, when he heard the report of the revolver and immediately turned to see whence it had come. He saw the murderers run away, three men in all, and followed two of them with his eyes. They both ran across Alameda street diagonally to the; corner of Marchessault, one to one side of the street and the second to the other.

"Asked as to the size of the three men, Mr. Hammond-Bell said they were all different, that is, three heights. One was very large, one medium and one small. He did not see what became of the third man, but noticed the other two particularly. Confronted with Big Jim. the witness unhesitatingly pronounced him to be one of the men—the big one —whom he had seen running away from Chee's body, and the one who did the shooting. When the three murderers had escaped from sight, Mr. Hammond-Bell ran to where Chee had fallen, being the first one to reach his side. He bent down and placed his hand to Chee's face and felt the terrible wounds made by the ball. Having a considerable knowledge of medicine and being desirous of rendering such assistance as possible, Mr. Bell made a quick examination of Chee's wound, but saw that he could do nothing. Just as he laid the wounded man's head down. Officer Lennon came running up, and immediately a crowd closed in upon the body. He asked Lennon If he could do anything to assist him, but the officer said no, to wait for the arrival of the patrol wagon. When it came he saw the body placed in it and then mingled with the crowd for a time, finally going home. The testimony given by the witness came like a thunderclap to the defense, as they had no intimation that such a person existed, much less had seen the whole affair. Messrs. Appel and Phibbs, for the prosecution, were almost equally surprised, as the witness had been found by Detective Bradish and been served with a subpoena, being merely called in the regular routine, They knew nothing of what he would testify to before he took his place in the chair. For the defense Mr. Ling took the crossexamination of the witness, and began with a snap. He had not proceeded far, however, when the hour for adjournment arrived and the hearing was continued, to be taken up again Monday morning at 9:30."
(Los Angeles Herald, 1896)
I had to make a cranial leap to conclude that Percy H Bell (shown in the US censuses) was the Percy Creed Bell on my tree.  His sister I'd found was known as Alys Hammond Bell, so when I substituted 'Hammond' for 'H', I got the full story.

(Whilst Percy was pretending to be a doctor, his brother Lee was pretending to be a Methodist minister in Edgewater, Denver among the Rockies.  That didn't last long.  Their sister Alys was a Baptist missionary and nurse from age 27 in Gombe Lutete, at the foot of the Congo's Livingstone Falls, living out a boring retirement in Worthing).

Arundel and Alexander: grand names on Somerset soil

My great-grandfather Bert Creed was a boy of very fair complexion, requiring much washing to keep it clean, who grew up on a smallholding in West Pennard, Somerset.

I first came across many of the names in his family tree as a young boy, and thought nothing of them.  I had always thought that Arundel was an unusual name for my Bert's aunt, a farmer's wife in rural Somerset, but didn't get too enervated about it.

Bert had a great-uncle Alexander Creed, a ponderous-looking farmer of three-cornered Steart Farm at Babcary.  I thought nothing of his name either - except this time one of his large tribe of single female descendants said he was named after one of the Hoods of Butleigh, presumably Admiral Alexander, who died eleven years before our Alexander's birth.  During Hood's long retirement he likely returned to his childhood home (2 miles from the Creeds) and sufficiently impressed our forebear to take on the name.
Back to Arundel, I was looking at the 1940 wills registers, a century after the birth of my gt-gt-gt-aunt, and noticed that the Napier family not only had Arundels within it but also had a connection with West Pennard, Somerset.

After some investigation, I found that Julia Arundel Napier (1821-1847) had lived at East Pennard House in the 1820s.  She was an unmarried lady known as Arundel born a few months after her high-rolling father fell off a horse at 25.  Then in her teens her mother left East Pennard and came to 217-218 The Strand, London with a husband (and likely cousin) Sir John Dean Paul, a wealthy banker.

It was here that Arundel Napier was living in 1841, not entirely happily, having lost her sister and close companion Lettice two years earlier, in the calming climes of Weston-super-Mare.  You can see the property still houses a bank.  Arundel's mother died the next year, and she returned to Somerset, being buried at East Pennard church in 1847.

My theory is that Elizabeth Creed, sister of Alexander, and thus no stranger to grabbing names from the ether, had a personal connection with either Arundel Napier or her sister Lettice, perhaps being in service at Pennard House; and after her marriage, 1840, gave that distinctive name Arundel to her eldest child, a girl (whose family finally died out in 2004).

Just a word of the wild Napiers and Pennard House courtesy of Priscilla Napier (1908-98), author and chronicler.  She writes: "East Pennard House, a solid Georgian mansion looking westward across the vale of Avalon.  Here, rooted like comfortable oaks in this smiling country that seems forever bathed in autumnal light ...the Napier parents dearly hoped that the Napiers would solidly remain.  But sons do not stay quiet on rich acres, in snug little businesses, or with safe hereditary manual skills, they go to Australia or Arkanas, open boutiques in the Seychelles or restaurants in the Andes... Sometimes, aware that life is short, they live it up while the going is good, especially in times of piping peace."

14 Feb 2016

Envelopes ahoy: Ordering government certificates

Any day now I'll be treated to the pitter-patter of tiny facts as the postman plans to ring twice. I've a set of birth and death certificates due to arrive next weekend, and a set of wills scheduled to appear on Leap Day.

I have bitten on the bullet, as you English say, and decided to throw all my spare coins at that well known slot machine, the General Register Office and Probate Registry.

"Can I take your date of birth please, well as long as you give it me back."

I am thinking that my two toughest ladies 🚺, Charlotte Smith and Eva Walker, might just quit their hide-n-seek if I knew their dates of birth. They might still be in Britain in 1939, aged 59 and 42. Here's hoping the 1939 register will help me with that.

Mussolini-luvva Arthur Taylor turned up in the Italian alps after leaving England and disappearing. I found his daughter in Sicily about a year ago and I'm only ready now to find what I expect will be a dead end. Just maybe there's cousins in Ragusa, Europe's southern most city, but I'm not holding my breath.

All the facts are coming soon any road, with a Knock, Ring and letters through my door.

7 Feb 2016

Best of Genes Dictionary

A new place to record the jargon used by family historians in their research.
Genes Dictionary.
Best of the list so far:
daughtered out When a line fails because only daughters were left to have children, and they don't continue the male line.
long ease git A chap who takes a long ease with his laptop, researching family history, while everyone else is working. Anagram: genealogist!