Month: April 2015

Frustrated and a bit disappointed

The trip to Kew turned up very little at all.

The day started brimming with hope even through the remnants of the rush hour traffic. I arrived at 10am, registered for my readers card and started searching. I had a number of references to look at prepared in advance but as you’ll see below they were frustratingly unrevealing. It was also a very long wait for document retrieval, which I wasn’t prepared for. I ended up leaving just after 6pm not much the wiser. It’s a lovely place though, and everyone was very helpful.

I found no sign of Philip Joseph Robinson’s court martial. I looked through four thick ledgers of handwritten records and found nothing. There were also two ledgers in the catalogue listed as “wanting”, meaning they were supposed to be in the archive but somehow hadn’t arrived from the originating body. This didn’t help the growing sense of frustration. Could he have been in them? Probably never know.

There was no sign of Ralph’s East African birth either. If he was born there it was not registered with the British authorities, which still leaves the possibility of PJR being some part, albeit temporary, of the post-war Afrikaner migration and therefore of a Dutch Reformed Church baptism coming to light. More work needs to be done on this.

I could find nothing to add to James Edwards’ met police record. Too much of this record set is missing – there are very few complete service records available and I couldn’t find any correspondence relating to his dismissal.

One of the things I managed to find was the Will of William Robinson. The reason I was looking relates to the 1820 migration to the Cape. Before some of the parties of 1820 Settlers left England bound for South Africa they would meet up, presumably for updates and questions. The Erith Party, of which Robert Robinson was a member, met on Newington Causeway above the Crown and Anchor public house. Another group, curiously, met at Robinson’s Tobacconist on nearby George Street, which has niggled away as possibly being of importance but of which I can find no trace. There was, however, a Robinson’s Tobacconist on Tooley Street, just round the corner, but I now know at least that this was nothing to do with us, which I suppose is a positive of sorts. It’s proprietor was this William Robinson whose only son it turns out was Thomas. Not a Philip to be seen.

The day’s only faint sliver of hope was a letter


Coming out of Chatham Dockyard on 15th November 1783 it says:

 “We beg leave to acquaint you that we have this day discharged John Brooks and Philip Robinson, Riggers belonging to this yard, for attempting to embezzle the articles mentioned on the otherside [of the letter] out of the Success [a ship], but it is not in our power to place three times the value thereof against their wages agreeable to your warrant of 24th October 1783 by reason that both of them sell(?) their pay…”

Which allows the ever so slight possibility that if this is our Philip (born c.1747), known to be resident in the Chatham area at that time, he may have come to Kent from elsewhere, perhaps even through the Navy. Not that it is possible to prove any link yet, there is no clue as to who his parents were as they are not mentioned on anything yet found. But it’s something and it means the day was not a complete washout.


Getting ready for Kew

National Archives building

It’s been a quiet few days treading water before the big trip to the national archives at Kew on Thursday. I’ve even got some prep done so I know what it is I want to look up while I’m there! I’m going to be looking for potential birth records in British East Africa, records of the Metropolitan Police, Court martial records for the Boer War, and potentially some Wills.

I wonder if it’ll be better or worse for everyone else being at WDYTYA Live starting on Thursday.

Brief update

Many, many searches have been done and many, many document sets have been trawled, all to little avail.

There is still not much to report after weeks of searching for the perennially elusive Philip Joseph Robinson or his wife Louisa Anderson, although there is a family of Andersons from Harrismith that look a promising match without as yet an explicit link back to Louisa.

Having said that, there has actually been some progress around the periphery. A lot more has been found about Ralph Victor Robinson, PJR’s eldest son and my great-uncle. For instance Ralph was married and divorced twice – first to Lauretta Twentyman-Jones and later to Patricia Campbell (née Mayer). Both marriages were short-lived and apparently produced only one child. None of which sheds much light on the main search for his father’s birth and death, except for perhaps the most interesting thing discovered about Ralph, and which I nearly missed.

The marriage register for the wedding of Ralph and Lauretta in Wynberg says that he was born in “East Africa”, which came as a bit of a curve-ball. It means that shortly after Philip and Louisa married in 1903 and before he was employed back at De Beers in Kimberley in 1905 the couple were in British East Africa, presumably taking a chance on what briefly looked like a new land of opportunity. Much more to be discovered and the final push I needed to get up to the archives.

I’m off to Kew on the 16th.