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Today at Kew

What do you call it if your wild goose is caught?

Okay, perhaps “caught” is stretching a point in this instance but I now feel fairly confident that my ancestor Philip Robinson was indeed a rigger at Chatham Yard. I found a little time today to get to the National Archives and trawling both Chatham’s “ordinary” and “extraordinary” pay books for the period, I found that Philip was listed as a rigger for the three quarters before November 1783 (when, you’ll remember, he managed to get himself dismissed for attempting to embezzle supplies from HMS Success) and that before this he had been a rigger’s labourer.

The document retrieval system at Kew does not allow for rapid perusal so I can’t say yet when his employment as a rigger’s labourer started, but I did also notice that he was working alongside one Alexander Erith. Further, if slight, evidence in favour of this Philip being right.

Finding Edith

The problem with finding records in South Africa is just that – finding them. Sometimes you have to approach your problem somewhat obliquely, and sometimes you find a record that may possibly be the one you’re looking for but your uncertainty affects your decision to send for it or not. Sometimes you just forget what you’ve seen.

Such a thing happened earlier this year. As you know if you’ve read this blog, I’m looking for my grandfather’s siblings in an attempt to put a lid on my great grandfather’s story, as well as putting the family back together – if only virtually.

In January I get sent a reference to a record in Durban regarding the death notice of a Cornelius De Jager whose surviving spouse is Pauline Edith. I’m not sure why I didn’t pursue it earlier, after all the name is just switched around, and we did believe she had married a de Jager; it’s just the sort of oblique approach I meant. I did spend a little time looking at Cornelius Duggan De Jager and traced his parentage but could not find any further mention of Pauline, especially not a maiden name, and so still didn’t send for the record.

Anyway, by September (2015) I’ve gathered a number of leads I need to follow up and include the de Jager DN. The other requests come through quickly, they were regarding Andrew Joseph Robinson and his erstwhile wife Rhoda and confirmed a number of things, but the de Jager order didn’t come through for another month.

When it does, it’s all there – Surviving spouse: Pauline Edith de Jager, with “(born Robinson)” squeezed in underneath. They have five children; Douglas, Gerrit, Elma, Melva and Edith. They were married on 6th June 1929 when he was about 28 and she roughly 24. He was born in Prieska, they married in Kimberley and he died in Durban in February 1962.

So Edith/Pauline was still alive in 1962 at least, which starts to narrow the search for her demise, and we also have five children to search for in case they know what became of their grandfather.

We now have a developing picture of the lives of four of granddad’s five siblings; Andrew, Ralph, Connie and now Edith, it’s now just Doris we know so little about.

Earliest ancestors

Just a quick look at the earliest ancestor found on each of the four branches (my grandparents) of the family.

For the ROBINSON side, the earliest Robinson is still Philip, born c. 1746 but overall we have Wessel Schulte, born in Niedersarchen, Germany in 1566.

On the CURRIE side we reach the furthest back of all to one Richard Mossop born in Gosforth, Cumbria in 1490. The earliest Currie is David born 1825 in Dumfries.

We haven’t fared so well on the ELLICOTT side, although there is still a lot of data to sort through. So far it’s Robert Ellacott born in 1625 who is at least the earliest of the four names found.

Finally, the LEITH side is the least documented with Francis Foster born in 1785 the narrow ‘winner’, although there is tell of a mysterious “Mr Leitch” who would have been born a bit earlier. Otherwise the earliest Leith is John, born about 1800 in Slaght.

So in terms of generations:

Philip Robinson – is my 5 times great grandfather
Wessel Schulte – 11 times great

Richard Mossop – 13 times great
David Currie – 4 times

Robert Ellacott – 9 times

Francis Foster – only 3 times
John Leith – 4 times

Famous skeletons

When you embark upon a genealogical quest you will eventually have to start drawing lines. At some point your tree will start to look more like a hedge unless you limit the number of branches you go down – it is nice to know for example that your second cousin Bob was married to Jean, but you perhaps don’t need to know all of Jean’s ancestors or siblings and their descendants.

You will also, at the start, be hoping that there might be some link to someone famous or notable, someone to start a conversation at dinner perhaps (or maybe only because that will mean an awful lot of work will already have been done for you!).

What this is leading to is that one of the slightly more obscure branches of my tree links in to the Pretorius family, something I hadn’t paid much attention to before. But it would appear that they’re something akin to Afrikaner aristocracy; descendants of Johannes Pretorius who arrived in the Cape in 1666. He was one of the first Dutch settlers and great grandfather of the famous Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius and great-great-grandfather of the first president of the South African Republic, Marthinus Pretorius.

And also, as it turns out, my eight times great grandfather.

This link to one of the most famous Boer families comes on top of being descended from an 1820 settler.

To put that in some context, I suppose it’s a bit like being descended both from a Pilgrim Father and a Son of the American Revolution.

And I’m not sure how I feel about that.

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.

Edwards update

record entry

Just a quick note to update on the progress tracing James Edwards’ family. We now know that James joined the Metropolitan Police (warrant number 26177) on 25 September 1848 and was transferred to Devonport naval dockyard in 1861 (the Met were the force who policed the royal dockyards, not the local bobbies). He left the police in 1866 under something of a cloud – he was dismissed, but I’ll have to go to Kew to access his records to see why. He was a dairyman when he died in 1881.

We think his son William Henry who was born shortly after arriving in Plymouth, became a coach painter and/or a mason and we think we can trace him in the 1911 census and there’s a possibility he died in 1912 but we can’t as yet be certain. There are too many William Henrys to be sure of anything right now.

John Hodder Edwards, James’s eldest son, was a cabinet maker and was lodging with the Bovey household in St Mary Church after his mother Mary (née Rowe) died in 1890. What became of him after that remains a mystery.

We’ve had better luck tracing their surviving daughter, Elizabeth Kate Edwards. She never married and ended her days in 1932 in domestic service. Her death certificate shows that Alfred E. Ellicott, her cousin, was present at her death, and living only two doors down from her in Babbacombe Road.

A natural death?

Ellicott ShopIt seems that the Ellicott drapery business may have died a natural death. In 1926 when it was being wound up, Alfred was 56 and his sisters Annie and Adela were 59 and 70 respectively. Julia, the family milliner had married in 1911 aged 39 and had probably moved away – her husband Fred Bidwell died in Southampton in 1932. So it looks like the sisters had moved or retired prompting the move to “Ellicott & Son” in 1923 in an attempt to keep it going. The son in question must have been William because as I’ve mentioned before, Ted was in the Seychelles with Cable & Wireless and Stan was an engineer and it is now clear was on a ship bound for Lagos as the business was closing.

William married Peggy Brunsdon, who was from Swindon, in Gloucester in early 1929 and moved to South East London soon after, so it seems likely that his interest in the business had rapidly waned, if he was interested at all. This must have prompted Alfred to close the business and retire. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to discover William’s occupation yet but it looks unlikely to have been drapery.

Ancestor hunting in Devon

Going to Devon to hunt ancestors was an expedition long needed. I had two principal aims; to dig further back in time and discover the earliest generations of Ellicotts that I could, and to discover what happened to A& J Ellicott’s drapers shop in Torquay. We planned an itinerary that would allow a day at the Devon Heritage Centre and a few days exploring the area, including a visit to Farlecombe and Sampford Courtenay.

So, day one:
heritage centreThe heritage centre had plenty of parish records to trawl both in transcript and on microfiche, and I was fairly successful; adding three generations to what I knew and can now look back to the 1660s and a certain James Ellacott in Zeal Monachorum.
There weren’t, however, as many trade directories or business records available as I’d hoped and I was only able to narrow down the timeframe in which to look further. Interestingly, A&J Ellicott became, in about 1925, Ellicott & Son. – interesting because by this time Alfred’s sons were largely elsewhere. Edgar was in the Seychelles, Stan was engineering and heading for Sierra Leone, which leaves William. William got married in Gloucestershire in 1929 and soon after moved to Woolwich, so if he is the “& son” his removal would go some way to explain the business’s disappearance from the 1929 edition. I fear/suspect a trip to Torquay may be required!
All of which leaves a few loose ends but at least I feel that I’ve made good progress and I’ve still got a good amount of fragmentary data to go through.

signThe next day we went to Newton Abbott market and then tracked down Farlecombe, Uncle Stan’s old farm. The narrow tracks became more recognisable and as we drew up to the farmhouse it was immediately familiar. Thankfully the current occupant was in the yard with her horse and she remembered “Old Mr Ellicott” so we were able to have a quick look round, which was most enjoyable.

On the third afternoon we arrived in Sampford Courtenay, the centre of the area the Ellicott/Ellacott family lived before moving to Torquay. It is a charming village with lots of thatch and picturesque cottages. We found St Andrew’s church and started clambering among the gravestones looking for any Ellacotts we could, uncertain if there were any to find. About half way round, success! there was the grave of Susan, William and their daughter Susan Snell Ellacott. The gravestone was crisp and legible and as far as you can jump for joy in a graveyard, I did. We also spent an interesting few minutes in the church itself, which was an education learning about the Prayerbook Rebellion of 1542.
churchgravesgravestoneinterior

After all that excitement, I’m working out which part of the country to visit next – possibly the Medway Towns to look for the original Philip!

Ellicott progress update

After a few hours sifting through the lists of results from Find My Past and sorting them into trees, I’ve managed to link up the Honeychurch, Winkleigh and Ashreigney lists. There’s still a question mark over some of Richard and Joanna’s later children; whether it’s still the same family as there’s 21 years between the oldest and youngest on the list with parents “Richard and Joan[na]” – not impossible, obviously, but questionable. I’ve put some of the info into Ancestry and got plenty of reassuring green leaf hints, so that’s some sort of confirmation that I’m heading in the right direction.

There’s no obvious link yet to the list of Ellacotts in nearby Hatherleigh, which is the next one to tackle, and there’s still a biggish gap in data for the mid 18th Century making the Sampford Courtenay list still a bit detached.

And they really weren’t very imaginative with names either; Richard, Mary, Elizabeth, Thomas, William and James in abundance.

Onward.