Inherited Craziness
A place to share all the nuts found on my family tree

Saturday, 21 January 2023

Thomas Back (Thomas Drake) and Elizabeth Mary Horn

Plymouth: Morice Square
cc-by-sa/2.0- © Martin Bodman - geograph.org.uk/p/688016

Thomas Back, son of Thomas Back and Mary Drake married Elizabeth Mary Horn (b. 1859 in Okehampton, Devon), daughter of James Horn and Elizabeth Bolt, on 23 Oct 1884 at St Paul's Church, Devonport. (The Anglican Church of Saint Paul the Apostle was situated on the east side of Morice Square.)

Born Thomas Drake (1850 D Quarter in STOKE DAMEREL Volume 09 Page 429), as he was named Thomas, it did seem likely that he was the son of Thomas Back, who his mother married two years later. He started life in Stoke Damerel Workhouse, where he was in 1851 with his mother and his older (half) siblings, Mary and George. He was subsequently known as Thomas Back and on his marriage certificate in 1884, as Thomas Back, Stoker RN, lists his address as 40, Cannon Street, Devonport - the very same address where we find both his parents and his sister in 1881, so we can be sure it's him - and names his father as Thomas Back, Labourer. Of course, this could simply be because that was the man who was around as he was growing up, but actually being named after him at birth, seems to confirm what we are being told.

Thomas Back, DOB 15 Oct 1850 (agrees with the quarter of his birth registration), enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class in July 1865, volunteering at HMS Implacable (1805) - former Duguay-Trouin, turned training ship (exactly the same ship, on exactly the same day as my great-grandfather, David Jones). Thomas Back's naval career does not appear to progress at this point, there being no entries beyond enlistment. 

There is then a record of a Thomas Back from Devonport, with date of birth given as 14 Oct 1849 (one year and one day of difference and this time the year does NOT agree with his birth registration), but we know this is our man from other records (marriage, census), who joined the Royal Navy on 9 Jan 1873 and served for 21 years, until 27 Apr 1894. He began as a Stoker 2nd Class, moved up to Stoker, Leading Stoker and Leading Stoker 1st Class.

Both naval records list Thomas as having Black hair and Hazel eyes. He was 4 ft 10 in at 14 and grew to 5 ft 6 in as an adult, gaining a bunch of tattoos.

From May 1873 to Aug 1875, Thomas was with HMS Agincourt (1865) at Portland, Dorset and, during that time, spent 28 days in Dorchester Gaol (HM Prison Dorchester) - Pure Victorian detention in all it’s glory.

At the time of the census of 1881, Thomas Back (30) Stoker, was moored in Hong Kong aboard HMS Victor Emmanuel (1855), which ship he was assigned to from Jun 1880 to Jan 1882, Feb 1882 to Jan 1883 and again from Feb to Apr 1883 (transferring to HMS Pegasus (1878) for the month in 1882, also in China and HMS Albatross (1873) in Jan 1883).

Two days before his marriage, Thomas joined HMS Tamar (1863), commissioned at Devonport on 21 Oct 1884 and then, from 15 Jan 1885 until 22 Jan 1889, was with HMS Nelson (1876). She sailed for the Australia Station after commissioning and became the flagship there in 1885. She was in Sydney and Brisbane and at the Woolloomooloo Bay Regatta on 18 Apr 1885, remaining on station until returning home in January 1889.

Thomas and Elizabeth's only child was born later that year:

  1. Lilian Mary Back b. 4 Nov 1889 D Q in STOKE DAMEREL 05B 340
Thomas spent time with HMS Magicienne (1888) in Portsmouth in 1890; HMS Goshawk (1872) took him to Gibraltar from May 1890 to Jun 1892 and while he was away, Elizabeth M Back (31) Wife Of A Stoker RN and Lilian M Back (1) were living in St Levan Road, Devonport. Thomas finished his career, from Dec 1892 to Apr 1894, at HMS Vivid II, the Stokers and Engine Room Artificers School in Devonport, before being pensioned.

In 1901, Thomas Back (50) Naval Pensioner was living in Avondale Terrace, Devonport with wife, Elizabeth M Back (41), daughter, Lilian M Back (11) and John Cornhill (29) General Labourer from Ireland, Boarder.

Thomas Back died in 1906 D Quarter in DEVONPORT Volume 05B Page 220. His age was estimated as 58 (he was 56), gaining yet another year on top of the one he added the second time he enlisted in the Navy.

In 1911, Elizabeth Back (51) Widow from Okehampton, Devonshire, was living in East Stonehouse. Living with her were recently married, son-in-law and daughter, Charles and Lilian Renshaw.

Elizabeth Mary Back was still living with the Renshaws (and their two daughters), at 7 Duckworth Street, Devonport, Devon in 1921.

Elizabeth Mary Back died, at 66, in 1926 M Quarter in DEVONPORT.

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