Tuesday, 24 April 2012

As one mystery is solved . . .

another one takes its place :o)

I've often said that my Mum & Dad should have named me Patience & then there may just have been the slightest chance of me actually living up to my name :o) As I've got older, the saying *everything comes to he/she who waits* seems to be coming true. I'm not as impatient as I was when I was younger & I don't seem to mind waiting for things - although there ARE a few exceptions :o)

One of the things I've waited oh-so-patiently for, is to solve a mystery in my family tree & just a few weeks ago, I finally did so, after searching for more than 10 years. (See where the patience thing is heading, now ?!)

I don't know about other people who *do* their tree, but over the years, I've become more attached to some people than I have to others. Some people seem to draw you to them in a way that can't really be explained & I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Sarah, one of my great grandad's sisters. I always thought she had a terribly sad life & I just felt so sorry for her.

She was widowed young & had to bring up 5 small children on her own for a few years. For over 10 years, I'd searched for her husband's death, & although I knew it was between 1901 & 1907 because he was in the 1901 census & Sarah remarried as a widow in 1907, I couldn't find it.

When Sarah remarried, she had 4 more children, but out of all of her 9 children,  5 died before they'd really had a chance to live.  The only son from her first marriage was killed in action in 1915. He was only 18. Her oldest son, a twin, from her second marriage died as a tiny baby, her second daughters from each marriage, including the twin to the baby son, died when they were 8 & her eldest daughter from her second marriage died aged 7. I can't begin to imagine how she managed to survive all that. She must have been beyond heartbroken.

Anyway, I always hoped that, although it was only short, she'd had a happy & loving first marriage. How wrong can you be ?! :o)

My desk is what I call *organised chaos*. I know what's on it & I know roughly where things are. I make a note of something, put it down & it eventually gets buried by other notes :o) BUT - I know it's there. Somewhere :o) Every now & again, I have a bit of tidy up & about 6 weeks ago, I came across the note I'd made of a death registration for a little girl who had the same name & was the same age as one of Sarah's daughters. I had a sneaky suspicion that it WAS Sarah's daugher, but as the death was registered in Gloucestershire & Sarah & family were in Kent, I was unsure, which is how it came to be buried at the bottom of my note mountain :o)

I decided to throw caution to the wind & I got the death certificate. Yes, it WAS Sarah's daughter, but OH MY !!!  The certificate gave her father as Sarah's husband, but it also said he'd been in the navy & was deceased. The certificate also said that Sarah's daughter had died of tubercular meningitis in Bristol General Hospital & she had been admitted from the orphanage there. HUH ??? What was she doing in the orphange when her mother was alive & kicking ?? WELL . . . . :o)

It turns out that Sarah's husband had deserted her & their 5 children - aged between 2 months & 6 years - he'd enlisted in the navy as a single man, said he was 5 years younger than he really was AND he used an alias !!!!   No wonder I'd not been able to trace his death  !!

Poor Sarah had to rely on Parish Relief & the kindness of friends because she was left destitute. With a tiny baby & 4 other little children, she couldn't get work, so she had to have her 3 oldest children admitted to an orphange so that they could be looked after & educated.

She was unable to afford the train fare to get them there, so the local NSPCC Inspector asked the NSPCC to pay it, which they did. He took the children to the orphanage & got them settled & he also wrote to them on Sarah's behalf, saying that she was a respectable woman caught in a situation that was not of her making. It turns out that this Inspector had had cause to *admonish* Sarah's husband several times over his treatment of  his family. The fact that he died 8 weeks after deserting them, means, as far as I'm concerned, he got his just desserts :o) He died in hospital of pneumonia, though, nothing terribly painful or lingering !! :o)) Personally, I'd have smacked him over the head with a shovel, just to make sure !!! :o))

Sadly, two of the three children admitted to the orphanage died - the daughter aged 8 & the son in France in 1915. I don't know if he saw his Mum before going off to war, because he left the orphanage as an apprentice to a shoe maker & went to live in Wales. Only the eldest child returned to Sarah & that was just 2 days before her 17th birthday. She has now become my new mystery. All I know about her is the date she returned home. I can't find a marriage or a death for her & a friend checked the Australian records in case she ended up over there with her aunt, one of Sarah's younger sisters. She really does seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth. Along with a couple of others who seem to want to stay hidden :o)

So, back to the patience thing. Family history is not for the impatient, it's not for the disinterested or for those who can't be bothered. It's for those who like to get their teeth into a good mystery but who don't mind finding out that, for hundreds of years, their ancestors were nothing more exciting than agricultural labourers, housemaids, gardeners, char women or painters & decorators. It's for people who aren't shocked or offended at finding out that their great great gran had a baby before she was married or that great uncle Herbert ran off with the wife of the local butcher. But, most of all, it's for people who don't mind waiting TEN YEARS (or more . . .) to solve a mystery & then start all over again with another one :o)


  1. Glad you are teasing out some solutions to your mysteries.

  2. The way you've described your desk is EXACTLY how my bedroom used to be, yet I was still told regularly to sort it out :p

  3. Ah, but not only can I see my desk, I can actually get to it :o) You couldn't find your bed without having a map & a compass !! And as for the carpet, well - remember that time we took bets on what colour it was because it had been so long since we'd seen it ??!! :o))

  4. Glad that you have managed to piece this little mystery together, I didn't know about the 17 year old, so good luck with the detective work there! I missed you two today, even if it chucking it down next Wednesday we ought to meet up for a coffee at the very least? I am still hoping for a lovely sunny Walmer Castle day though, lets keep everything crossed :) xxx

  5. Excellent detective work Pat .. If you want any help - just holla .. xx

  6. Val - fingers x'd for a nice day, but I'm not holding my breath :o)

    Sue - Thank you :) I was well chuffed at finally knocking down that brickwall. The sense of achievement when you do that is fab, isn't it ?

  7. Pat I know the feeling well I spent over 20 years trying to find out about my grandfathers first marriage and finally the records I needed appeared online. So I know that sense of relief and I had a little sadness too as I had now completed that particular bit. But I do still wonder his first wife appears to have died in Burma her place of birth but as that country is only now opening up to the world I am not sure I will find anymore out about her. As to your lady who seems to have disappeared of the face of the earth oh I bet she is there just hiding round that corner waiting for you to pounce. I love the way you write up your blog by the way this was very interesting xx