Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Richard Wilton and Catherine Byatt

Quaker Meeting House (1835), New Street, Great Dunmow

Among a flurry of research prior to our recent trip, I'd ordered a copy of the marriage certificate for, Richard Wilton, son of Stephen Wilton and Elizabeth Hankin, and Catherine Byatt, daughter of John Byatt and Jane Stokes. The certificate tells us that the marriage took place at the Independent Meeting House (Quaker Meeting House), New Street, Great Dunmow, on 25 Mar 1843, according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Protestant Dissenters. Witnesses to the marriage were Joseph Wilton [1] and Maria Staines [2].

Catherine Byatt was listed as a minor (she would have been 19) at the time of the marriage. The daughter of John and Jane Byatt (née Stokes) [3], she had been baptised in Little Canfield, on 4 Apr 1824. Richard Wilton appears on the 1841 census in the High Street, Great Dunmow. He is described as a harness maker (as he is on the marriage certificate) and is listed as being born outside the parish. He was baptised, on 20 Mar 1811, in Royston, Hertfordshire. That makes Richard 32 at the time of his marriage to the 19 year old Catherine. In these circumstances, I might expect him to have been a widower, but haven't been able to find a record of any previous marriage for him. 

Richard and Catherine had at least 7 children, for whom we find civil registrations, but not baptisms, as Quakers do not practice baptism:
  1. Ann Wilton, born 1844 (died 27 Apr 1850, aged 6, buried 2 May 1850)
  2. Elizabeth Wilton b. 6 Aug 1847
  3. Richard Wilton, born 1848 (on 1881 census), died 1889, aged 41.
  4. Walter Wilton, born in the 4th quarter of 1850, died in 1852
  5. Martha Wilton, born in the 1st quarter of 1853, died in 1854 
  6. William Wilton, born in the 2nd quarter of 1855, died in 1858
  7. Ellen Wilton, born in the 2nd quarter of 1857 (? died 1882)
Richard Wilton, Harness maker (journeyman), died on 3 Mar 1858, from Phthisis (pulmonary tuberculosis). He was 46.

George Wilton, born in the Dunmow Union (Workhouse) on 3 Feb 1860, birth certificate says his mother's name was Caroline Wilton, no father listed, but I cannot find a Caroline Wilton in the area at any time. On later census returns George is listed as Catherine's new husband - John Eldred's - step-son, so George appears to have been Catherine's 'mystery' illegitimate son.

In 1861, the widowed Catherine (surname transcribed as Wilson), is living with her brother, William Byatt, in Little Canfield. George Wilton, aged 1, is listed as nephew to the head of the household. While, the 13 year old Elizabeth and her 4 year old sister, Ellen, (listed as being 6) are that year, listed as inmates in the Great Dunmow Union Workhouse.

Catherine remarried to John Eldred, widower, on 27 Sep 1862 in Great Dunmow. Various records of the marriage list her previous surname as either Walton or Wilson, however, the 1871 census record for the family, living in Braintree Road, Great Dunmow, with John Eldred as the head, clearly lists Ellen and George Wilton as step-daughter and step-son. Catherine appears to have lost 5 years in age to become younger than her new husband. 

Widowed again, on the 1881 Census, she appears as Catherine Eldridge, living at 23, Powis Road, Bromley, Poplar, London and is described as a Dressmaker, although supplements her income by taking in lodgers. 

So far, I've not found a death for Catherine, but with so many incorrect names given throughout her life, it's not easy to guess what it might be listed under. There's also the chance, of course, that she remarried once again and therefore this is under yet another totally new name.
[1] Joseph Wilton, who witnessed the marriage, is Richard's younger brother, a Tailor And Clothier in High Street, Great Dunmow. 

[2] Maria Staines (then 17), is daughter of Thomas Staines and Sally Hockley and sister of Richard's other brother, Henry's 1st wife, Sarah Staines and of his 2nd wife, Ann Staines, who were all already my 1st cousins 5 times removed, because their mother, my 4th great-grand aunt, was daughter of my 5th great-grandparents.

A bride was typically assisted by one or two female attendants. The number tended to increase if the bride was of higher society. These women helped the bride in various ways – penning invitations, getting dressed – and one was designated the official witness for the parish registry. She could be married or unmarried. The term “bridesmaid” or more commonly “bridemaid” without the S, was in use since the 1500s. [Source]

[3] Catherine's mother, Jane Byatt (née Stokes) was the daughter of Robert Stokes and Susan (or Susanna) Judd. Meanwhile, William Hockley's (of The Chequers Inn) second wife, Sarah Stokes appears to have been the daughter of William and Mary Stokes. Both were from Little Canfield. Since they weren't sisters, in such a small hamlet, it's probably reasonably safe to assume they were cousins. 

Monday, 28 September 2020

Discovering Direct Ancestors' Burials

Headstones (left to right): great-grandparents, David and Laura Jones, 2x great-grandparents, Henry and Mary Stone and 3x great-grandparents, William and Ann White.

Researching documents and discovering online records that go towards telling an ancestor's story is fascinating. Visiting the places where they were born, baptised, married, lived or worked really helps put those things into context, but there is something very emotive about finding a grave with a headstone to feel properly connected to family members, knowing a physical part of them is right there beneath your feet. But with cremation being the norm in the most recent generations and the majority being too poor for headstones, such moments are very rare and special. There are no graves for my parents nor grandparents, so the first would be for my great-grandparents. 

Old Church Cemetery, Cobh, Cork, Ireland


In 2014, we went to Cobh (formerly Queenstown), Cork, Ireland where my paternal grandmother had been born and brought up. While there, we were met by the late Jack Gilmartin, who used to provide free guided tours of the Old Church Cemetery, where there are a number of famous burials, particularly many of the victims of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. I don't know what I was expecting, but Jack took me totally by surprise, when he said, "I'll take you to your family's grave." It sent a shiver down my spine and completely took my breath away. And it still does.

With an inscription on the cross-shaped headstone reading, "The Jones Family, Church Lodge, Rushbrooke, At Rest", this is the final resting place of my great-grandfather, David Jones (1850-1935), my great grandmother, his second wife, Laura White (1870-1917) and their two sons, Cornelius Jones (1893-1926) and David Jones (1898-1966) (Young Dave.)

What I didn't fully appreciate until later is there's also an earlier family grave in this cemetery, where the inscription reads, "Erected by David Jones In memory of his beloved father Thos. Jones Who died Jan. 8th 1873 aged 56 years Also his beloved son Thomas Who died Jan. 8th 1891 Aged 9 years and 3 months And his beloved wife Johanna Who died Feb 18th 1891 Aged 35 years."

There is also Catherine Jones (Kitty), who was wife of Young Dave. 

And I wouldn't have known about any of those, had it not been for Jack giving me a pair of A4 sheets, listing all the Jones' burials there. It was so sad to read about Jack's death less than a year after we'd met him, but lovely to read that he has been buried in the Old Church Cemetery. You can listen to Jack talking about the cemetery and some of the stories of his co-occupants here.

St Peter's Churchyard, Uplowman, Devon


The second discovery was equally surprising and was something I came across quite by accident online, thanks to the work of Janice Dennis, contributing at Find A Grave

Henry Stone (1828-1901) and Mary Ridgeway (1833-1885) were my 2x paternal great-grandparents. Henry had been an agricultural labourer and, as such, I wasn't looking for a grave with any marker, because I didn't expect the family to have had the resources. We'd even been to the church at Uplowman and didn't bother to look. We've been back a couple of times since.

That there is a headstone, which is just by the side of the path to the rear of the church - notable itself as a Grade II* Listed Building, having been built originally by Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII - is probably because this was first the grave of their son, John Stone (1858-1882), a Labourer on the Railway, who had died on 25 Aug 1882, aged just 24, from Phthisis (pulmonary tuberculosis or a similar progressive wasting disease).

Another of Henry and Mary's sons, Francis Stone and his wife, Frances Jerred - who my father always refered to as 'Aunt France' - are also buried in this churchyard. I very much suspect there may be others, unmarked.

Headstone for William White and Ann Francis in need of support (left)

The Rosary Cemetery, Thorpe Hamlet, Norwich, Norfolk


So the third of my direct ancestors graves - that of some paternal 3x great grandparents, William White (1806-1871) and Ann Francis (1802-1889), at the Rosary Cemetery, Norwich - we visited on our recent trip. In these times of COVID-19 we figured this activity a safe bet as we'd probably not meet too many currently infected people in churchyards and cemeteries! 

In the lead up to the trip, I'd done a flurry of research so there'd be specific things to look for: I'd known that this family lived in Thorpe St Andrew and asked a local history group if they might have come across any White graves in the local churchyard. They had not. However, I was then contacted by former Sheriff of Norwich, Nick Williams, whose wife had seen my question and who provided photos and even a plan, which made the plot very easy to find. 

The Rosary Cemetery itself is notable, nay unique, too, as it was the first non-denominational cemetery in England. Laid out in 1819, it celebrated it's 200th Anniversary in 2019. Nick Williams, who is also involved in The Friends of the Rosary Cemetery, has now written several books on the burial site and here talks about The History of Rosary Cemetery.

Interesting to read that the site was a former market garden and is "... also a haven for flora and fauna", as William White (as well as his sons, William and Walter - I'm descended from the latter) were all gardeners by profession.

And here I need to highlight that in none of these cases were there any official records online that would have found any of these plots for me. Finding graves often requires luck and thinking outside the box (or casket).

Prospect Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


The forth grave of any direct ancestor that I know about is all the way over in Canada. Dan Tompson was a 2x great-grandfather, who had emigrated with his second wife, in 1912. This record, at Billion Graves, I did find recently via a link at Ancestry (the BillionGraves Index is also available via FamilySearch), but relies on volunteers. For obvious reasons, having only found this information this year, I've not visited this one [yet].

Sunday, 27 September 2020

The Chequers Inn, Great Dunmow, Essex

The Chequers Public House, 27 Stortford Rd, Great Dunmow, Essex

While we were in Great Dunmow recently, we went to have a look at the The Chequers Public House - formerly The Chequers Inn, a coaching inn

William Hockley, baptised 16 Feb 1766, the younger brother of one of my 5x great-grandfathers, Daniel Hockley (b. 1760) - I calculate that makes William my 5th great-grand uncle - was described on the baptism record of his son, Robert, in 1802, as a Hostler at the Chequers Inn. The Hostler may have been the innkeeper, but certainly he will have been responsible for the horses.

The building itself is Grade II Listed, parts of which may date back to the 14th Century or even earlier, so one can probably presume that much of what one sees today is still fundamentally as it was in William Hockley's time.

William Hockley had married Jane Pye (daughter of a Joseph and Mary Pye) on 24 Feb 1795 at St Mary the Virgin, Great Dunmow. Their son William was baptised there on 5 Jul 1795. It would appear that Jane may have died as a result of giving birth to a daughter, as she was buried at St Mary's on 6 July 1797, aged 25 and their daughter, Jane Pye Hockley, born 1797, died the following year, aged 9 months, and was buried on 14 Mar 1798. 

St Mary the Virgin, Great Dunmow, Essex - Sanctuary
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © John Salmon - geograph.org.uk/p/1304118

William then remarried to Sarah Stokes of Little Canfield on 7 Sep 1800, also at the church of St Mary the Virgin, Great Dunmow. They went on to have at least eight children:
  1. Jane Hockley b. Feb 1800 Bastard Child of William Hockley and Sarah Stokes, as the parish registers state, was baptised, aged 9 weeks, on 13 Apr 1800
  2. Robert Hockley baptised 2 Oct 1802, died aged 3 weeks, 3 days and was buried 15 Oct 1802
  3. Robert Hockley baptised 11 Mar 1804
  4. Sarah Hockley baptised 29 Dec 1805
  5. Mary Ann Hockley 26 Feb 1809
  6. Elizabeth Hockley 25 Aug 1811
  7. Ann Hockley baptised 8 Dec 1816 (where William is still listed as Hostler) and died 1819, aged 2 (buried 16 Sep 1819)
  8. Henry Hockley baptised 25 Apr 1819. [Sources]
William Hockley (74), wife Sarah (65) and youngest son, Henry (20), are living in Star Lane, Great Dunmow in 1841. William died and was buried at St Mary the Virgin, Great Dunmow on 20 Oct 1844. The widowed Sarah, then 83, was still living in Star Lane in 1861 and died, in 1867, aged 90. 

Star Lane in Great Dunmow
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Robert Edwards - geograph.org.uk/p/1503881

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Plagues, diseases and disasters

That we are living in interesting times is clear, but it may be of some use, both in terms of looking for likely causes of death of our ancestors - particularly when several members of a family die at the same time - but also to realise that all of our direct ancestors lived through numerous epidemics or pandemics and must have survived, at least long enough to produce those from whom we are descended, or we wouldn't be here now. 

My own great-grandmother, Laura White, died from Influenza, in Ireland, in 1917 - the year before the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic - presumably, due to the underlying condition of Leukemia, which her death certificate states she'd been suffering from for four years. Had she survived that year, well ... 

Laura was my great-grandfather's second wife: he had lost his first wife and two of their children, all at the same time in 1891, to typhoid fever

My 2x great-grandfather, Thomas Jones, was a sailor and coastguard, born in 1817 and died in 1873 due to heart disease. Throughout his career, he had travelled all over the world on ships - inevitably in very close quarters. When I began to compile a timeline of his life, I decided to add events alongside it to put it into context, like the reigns of the various kings and queens, wars and epidemics. He had lived through no less than four Cholera Pandemics.

So, I'm working on a list of plagues, diseases and disasters (based on this list) for future reference. Here is a first draft (mostly, as yet, unverified).

Thursday, 17 September 2020

So which relative made this sign necessary?

Last recorded use of the stocks was in 1860 for a case of drunkenness.

As a proper holiday wasn't an option this year, we spent a week exploring some of the areas of this country where my ancestors have resided. One of those places was rural Essex and, while there, made the point of finding the location of the stocks and whipping post at Hellman's Cross

This [coincidentally] lies on the road between the churches of St Mary's, Great Canfield and All Saints, Little Canfield where, at both, for several generations various members of my family have been christened, married or buried. 

Whilst I, probably, have no connection to the unfortunate Elizabeth Abbot - it isn't a surname I've come across - however, I've searched online to see if there's a name for that last record of the use for the stocks for drunkenness and haven't find anything, so I certainly can't discount that one yet!

In other news, I've discovered no less than four umpteen publicans among my ancestors [so far]. It could explain a lot! More to come on those later.

Stocks and whipping post at Hellmans Cross, Great Canfield, Essex