Thursday, 26 December 2013

Perhaps the most precious stocking stuffer ever

 Yesterday morning, I reached into my Christmas stocking and out came an old address book. In the inside flyleaf, dated "18/12/19""from Ada", is my grandmother's signature as I never saw it before, because I always saw her sign as a married woman.  She had also written out her initials: KAG.  I have linen marked KAL.

On December 18th, 1919, my grandmother turned nineteen.  It had  been a tough year.  Nine months earlier, her elder and only sister Dorothy had died in one of the waves of the great Spanish Influenza pandemic that swept the world after the First World War.  Gran told me of being summoned from work in downtown Wolverhampton, a long and anxious tram-ride home.  When she got to her sister's bedroom, her sister was struggling to speak to her husband of six months, but her lungs were full of fluid.  It was February 19th.  Dorothy Beatrice Saunders née Griffiths was twenty-six.

Just a couple of years later, Kathleen went on a seaside holiday to Aberystwyth with her mother.  A university student had his digs in the lodging house where they were staying. His best friend was a classmate, a red-haired Welshman from Whitland, Carmarthenshire who took note of the dark-haired young girl with a Welsh surname and a Wolverhampton accent.  He asked to be introduced, and when the time came for her to return home, inquired if he might write to her.

His name and address appear four times in her address book. The first is his family home, the next two are places he lived while completing his undergraduate and master's degrees in zoology at the University College at Wales in Aberystwyth. (I'm not sure about the fourth -- I'll have to do some digging to see if it was university-related or perhaps a relative's home.)

After some hesitation on her part -- she was a pretty girl with a good job and plenty of male admirers -- Aneurin Lewis insisted on a commitment and they were engaged four years before their marriage in 1928.

However, she had no knowledge of that when she received this address book in 1919, although a seaside fortune teller once told her that she would travel far from her home and "live to a great age". (Very true -- two of her children were born in Kenya, and she died, at age 91, in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.) In the meantime, although I can find no evidence of Kath's Griffiths and Stokes aunts, uncles and cousins, I did find her future sister-in-law Edna Redman. Edna married Kath's brother Charles in 1922 and bore him five children before he committed suicide in 1932. That tragedy destroyed family connections and Edna disappeared from my grandmother's life, along with Kath's niece and nephews. It was only a few years ago that one of Edna's and Charles' grandchildren got in touch with me through Ancestry. He is now a Facebook friend, and we look forward to meeting him and his wife sometime this year.

Another in-law: William Saunders, her widowed brother-in-law who had watched helplessly while his bride succumbed to the flu the previous February. Apparently, he eventually asked Kath to marry him. She refused, but the two addresses she had for him on this page indicate that she stayed in touch for some years.  In between his addresses is Muriel Silvester, who would be Kath's maid of honour in 1928.

A last sad little treasury in the end paper of this address book: the dates of the deaths of my grandmother's immediate family, along with the clipped obituaries for her parents. My great-grandfather Harry Griffiths passed away unexpectedly in his sleep; my great-grandmother Clara awoke in the morning to find him dead next to her. As a child, my mother had startled her mother by remarking: "Granny Griffiths is going to get run over!" Mama had been the witness of several close calls. A few months after her husband's death, Clara was hit by a bus (or an army truck). After months of being in traction, she died of pneumonia. Kath, unable to return to England from Kenya due to the war, was devastated. Below the clippings, the deaths of Kath and her husband Aneurin are noted in my mother's handwriting.

So, my little holiday miracle: my mother was going to throw this out, but thought the better of it and passed it along to Father Christmas. Thank goodness!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

But did he speak Cree?

This year's Remembrance Day has already faded from memory; over the past three weeks, the poppies disappeared from chests and collars across the city like melting snow.  My poppy disappeared more quickly than usual this year.  This was not because I lost it.  I had anchored it very carefully with Scotch tape -- on the wrong side of my coat.  I spent the week before November 11th worrying about being accosted by irate veterans and berated for not placing the poppy over my heart.  It doesn't seem to take much to set veterans off:  this year it was the old red-poppies-vs-white-poppies controversy . Last year, they were getting irked at the Premier of Québec for putting a fleur de lis in the centre of her poppy.

Now, I have no problems with those who wear white poppies, so long as they don't label me a war-mongerer for wearing my red poppy.  And I stick a Canadian flag or maple leaf in the centre of my poppy, so I don't see why Pauline Marois, who identifies as Québecoise, shouldn't anchor hers with her own choice of pin to keep it from dropping to the street and getting lost and trampled.  (A swastika pin would be a problem…)

Remembrance Day is for remembering.  We family historians are heavily into remembering, and the result of our labours, sadly enough, is a long list of people to remember on November 11th.

I thought I'd focus on just one person and, if I keep this blog up, someone else next year, and the next.  And the next....
The Goddard family, Folkestone, Kent, circa 1905
The young man on the left, towering over my husband's maternal grandfather, is Archibald Spencer Goddard.  He was the youngest and tallest of the surviving five Goddard children (three children didn't make it to adulthood) and I have only learned recently that he was a twin - his sister Dorothy Grace was hastily christened on the day she died, eighteen days after she and Archibald had been born.

While the detail about his being a twin had escaped family lore, some other sparse but intriguing items made it into AS Goddard's brief history.  It was said that he had worked for the Hudson Bay Company and could speak Cree.  I've found no concrete evidence of this yet, although my husband claims to have once had ASG's journals, which have failed to materialize.  What I did find was his entry for the manifest of the ship that brought him to Canada in 1909 when he came out to visit his brother's farm to the north-east of Edmonton in Alberta (his next elder brother Ralph, my husband's grandfather -- the short one).  He described himself as a "missionary" and under the section asking if he planned to stay in Canada, wrote: "Perhaps."

We know that he taught at King Edward School in Edmonton, and that he was a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge.  We know this because the information appears in The Canadian Virtual War Memorial and at the section at Kent Fallen commemorating the alumni of Harvey Grammar School in Folkestone who died in the Great War. If you examine the latter, you'll find Archibald's second cousin Philip Charles Upton (DCM) who predeceased Archibald by a few weeks.

Archibald signed up for the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a lieutenant  in Calgary on November 4th, 1915.  He noted that he already belonged to the militia (CSCI - which I presume was the Canadian Signalling Corps). He was a captain when he died less than eleven months later on September 26th, 1916.  His entry in the CEF Burial Registry reads:
"Captain. - Goddard. - Archibald Spencer. - 5th Battalion. - 26/0/16 - (H.Q. File No.) 381/6/9 - Church of England
'Killed in Action.'
"During an attack near Courcelette he was badly wounded just before the First Objective had been reached and succumbed to his wounds soon after being carried back to the old front line

His administration notice reads:    "Goddard Archibald Spencer of Hillside 335 Fourth-street Edmonton Alberta Canada captain 5th battalion Canadian Infantry died 26 September 1916 in France Administration (with Will) London 5 December to the reverend (sic) Frederick George Goddard clerk. Effects £137, 0 s., 5 d." (That was his eldest brother, the fellow with a dog collar looking rather pleased with himself in the family photo, above.)

Archibald's name appears three more times.
on the Vimy Memorial, France;

in the Book of Remembrance, Peace Tower, Ottawa;

and, in 2008, projected with the names of thousands of other Canadian soldiers, in London, England, in Ottawa on the War Memorial, and on provincial legislatures across Canada.

 I still would love to know if he spoke Cree.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Eve of All Hallows

So it's Hallowe'en and people are dressing up as dead and/or rotting people, so this seems as good a time as any to share some death certificates that arrived in the mail recently. When I first started ordering certificates early in the onset beginnings of my research, I stuck to marriage and birth certificates. Mostly the ones for marriage, because they give so much information: the name and occupations of the groom and bride (although there is often no occupation listed for the bride prior to the twentieth century -- working women were so......working-class); residences, marital status; the names and occupations of both fathers. I mean, you need to treat all this with a grain of salt, but there seems to be more bang for your buck with a marriage certificate.

Death certificates, I was warned, tend to be suspect because the person in question is unable to fill it out -- for obvious reasons. However, in the past year or so, I've developed a whole new respect for death certificates. How a life ends, it turns out, can give an idea of how a life was lived. A death certificate places someone in time (and helps you not to look for that person after that time); it tells you where s/he was and who else may have been there. This is also as good a time as any to introduce you to some of the branches of both my family and that of my husband.
The 1893 death of my husband's great-uncle Herbert William Goddard in Folkestone, Kent

Let's start with a relatively lateral, uh, relative. This is my husband's great-uncle. Until I started doing family research seriously, my husband thought his maternal grandfather had two brothers and two sisters. I've since managed to unearth - if you'll pardon the expression - three more siblings. Two little girls died as newborns, bless 'em, but Herbert here died, as you see, at age 13. As far as I can tell, no one in the family ever mentioned him again. Certainly none of the family living in 1981 (when I first began research) seemed to be aware of his existence. I suppose that's why I couldn't resist ordering his death certificate, because if there's one thing I can't stand, it's someone being lost to memory because no one wanted to talk about them.

What do I learn from this certificate? I have further confirmation that Herbert existed (in addition to two censuses and his christening record) and that his father was William Day Goddard, my husband's great-grandfather. I deduce this from the initials "WD" and the address - 98 Guildhall Street in Folkestone - which was the family home for at least fifteen years between 1886 and 1901. I know this was one of a heart-breaking list of deaths for which W.D. Goddard was the informant. According to Rudy's List of Archaic Medical Terms (a fabulous resource), "Acute Rheumatism" means rheumatic fever, a big killer and disabler of children in those days before antibiotics (still a problem in developing countries today). Herbert may have sickened suddenly, or he may have been frail for a number of years, finally being finished by pneumonia.

 Three years before the death of his son, William Day Goddard registered the death of his mother-in-law, also at his home at 98 Guildhall.
The 1890 death of my husband's great-great-great-grandmother Mary Hyde née Reddington in Folkestone, Kent
This is another indicator of the challenges the household had been facing. In 1886, WD's wife Mary Monica had given birth to twins, a boy who lived --only to perish at the Somme thirty years later -- and a girl who died at 18 days of age. That same year, WD's father-in-law died, probably at the house as well. I've yet to order that death certificate.

All I really know about Mary Hyde (née Reddington), my husband's great-great-grandmother, is that she was born somewhere near Beauchamp Roding in Essex between 1805 and 1810. Death certificates are really poor documents for confirming ages; the informant is unlikely to know exactly unless he or she is the parent - I doubt Mary herself knew for sure. "Senile Decay", according to Rudy's List of Archaic Medical Terms, is the progressive loss of mental capacity that leads to dementia and personal helplessness. The majority of the cases recorded were most likely Alzheimer's disease. So, happy times at the Goddard household....
The 1890 death of my great-great-grandmother Mary Hales née Rose in Haringey, Middlesex
This certificate represents a victory of sorts.  For years, I've been trying to figure out when and where my great-great-grandmother Mary Hales née Rose died. (Mary is the paternal grandmother of my paternal grandmother.) After years of mis-orders, I found her probate notice which named a distant Hales cousin as executor, and was finally able to get my hands on this, which tells me that she died at 5 Harringay Villas of uterine cancer which she had had for at least three years and resulting in swelling of her body tissues and blood poisoning. Although two of her surviving daughters lived quite nearby (judging from the 1891 census), her death was reported by an Eliza Neaves who was living with her. I'm assuming Eliza was either a nurse or servant because a) I haven't found her anywhere else, and b) she reports my great-great-grandfather William King Hales (then dead for four years) as being a newspaper editor when he was the publisher of The Daily News. I think a family member would have known the difference. That's another reason why you have to take the information on a document with a grain of salt, particularly a death certificate.

Now, off to Wales, where my relatives were also dropping like flies.
The 1872 death of my great-great-great-great-uncle Samuel Edwards in Ceidio Fawr, Caernarvonshire, Wales
I'm working on pulling together a presentation about my maternal grandfather Edward Aneurin Lewis, a noted entomologist (noted among entomologists at least*) and his uncle, my great-great-uncle Thomas Lewis, a noted Baptist missionary (noted among Baptist missionaries, at least). One of Thomas' uncles, mentioned in his autobiography though not, frustratingly, by name, is Samuel Edwards. Their nephew Thomas tells us that his mother's father (my great-great-great-grandfather David Edwards) and two of her uncles were "preachers" with the Methodists and the Independents. I remember as a lad being present at the funeral of one of them at the churchyard at Glandwr.

Actually of the seven Edwards brothers, I would be hard-pressed to say which of them didn't preach, at least on the side.  My ggg-grandfather David Edwards was a farm labourer, but preached on occasion at the Ramoth Baptist Chapel at Cwmfelin Mynach, according to my very helpful distant cousin Jim Edwards.

I had hoped that this death certificate would help me pin down whose funeral great-great-Uncle Thomas attended.  I'm pretty sure it was either Samuel or Jonah Edwards -- although it could also have been Warriote, who is listed, along with Samuel, in the Surman Index at the Centre for Dissenting Studies.  Samuel - the Independent Minister, as you can see in his death certificate - died in Ceidio Fawr, Jonah (the Calvinistic Methodist minister, according to censuses) in Llanwinio in 1871, and Warriote (a bookbinder who also preached and is named, according to cousin Jim, for a family for whom the Edwards family worked over the generations) in Llanboidy in 1872.  Since the likeliest Glandwr for the burial of that Edwards uncle is the Glandwr about four miles to the northwest of Llanwinio and four miles to the north of Llanboidy, I guess this certificate has ruled Samuel out.  Thomas would have been about twelve or thirteen when these uncles died.
The 1900 death of my great-great-great-grandfather William Lewis in Llanboidy, Carmarthenshire, Wales

Nearly thirty years later, Thomas Lewis' father died -- my great-great-grandfather William Lewis, grandfather to my maternal grandfather Aneurin Lewis.  William's father and grandfather were master blacksmiths, as were his sons Benjamin (my great-grandfather) and David (the son who was the informant for this death).

 I ordered this mainly to confirm I had the correct death year, but this certificate gives me two bonuses:  1) confirmation that, in 1901, my great-great-uncle David was alive and living at "Pont-y-Fenni", the name of the house and forge where the Lewis family lived for at least between 1851 and 1900 -- although my great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Lewis (another master blacksmith who was also the son of a blacksmith) was living next door to "Pont-y-Fenni"  at the time of the 1841 census; 2) The note from the registrar in the margin on the far left indicates that my great-great-grandfather William died on the 24th and not on the 23rd -- a mistake that also appears in the probate calendar.

 I'm also rather grimly amused to see that the registrar had to take a second run (sorry about that) at the spelling of "Diarrhoea".
The 1879 death of my great-great-great-grandmother Matilda Grattidge née Clewlow in Stafford, Staffordshire

Finally, more often than you'd think, a certificate delivers a shock to the solar plexus, even when it concerns a death that took place over a century and a third ago.  I knew my great-great-great-grandmother Matilda Grattidge née Clewlow had been running The Castle Inn in Stafford after her husband's death -- my great-great-great-grandfather Daniel Grattidge, great-grandfather to my maternal grandmother Kathleen Griffiths -- in 1863 and that by 1881, it had been taken over by their son Daniel.  However, I had no idea that Matilda had committed suicide.

Why did she hang herself? Well, there is a familial tendency to depression on that branch of the family.  Also she had, within a very short time just before this, lost her daughter Matilda Rowley and her grand-daughter Emmeline, daughter of the same Daniel who took over the inn.  We'll never really know, will we?  My heart goes out to her eldest daughter Anne who was in Wolverhampton in the midst of having ten children.  This news must have been a heavy blow to a mother of young ones, to say nothing of Matilda Grattidge's other children and several brothers and sisters.

I've said it before and I'll say it again and often:  Family research isn't for wimps.  And death certificates, treated with due caution, can be a wealth of information.

Wait.  Is that another sheaf of envelopes from the General Register Office in my mailbox?

*At a Yale reunion dinner (my maternal aunt's husband was an alumnus), two entomologists who happened to be sitting at their table had a conniption fit when they learned who my aunt's dad was: "This is EA Lewis's daughter!"

Sunday, 22 September 2013

In the beginning(s)

Don't get me wrong.  I love Canada. It's my home.

I was born here one year after my mother's arrival  -- and nine months after my father joined her. She had been born in Wolverhampton and raised in Kenya; he'd been born in Putney and raised in Colchester.  I grew up Canadian, but somehow feeling less Canadian than my contemporaries who had grandparents living nearby while mine were strangers, living thousands of miles away across the Atlantic Ocean.  It wasn't until I first travelled to England that I had a tangible feeling of roots and belonging to a place.  I mean, clearly I belong in Canada, but there's something about being able to see the streets where your parents lived, or the churchyard where your great-grandparents are buried.

My marriage to an equally Canadian fella whose father was born in Brixton and whose maternal grandparents emigrated from Kent to Alberta in the first decade of the twentieth century led (belatedly) to a honeymoon that took us all too briefly back to England.  After a few weeks spent with newly-met cousins with faces and mannerisms which were --- familiar,  I began to ask the questions and take the notes that lead inexorably into the never-ending jigsaw puzzle/mystery novel that is family research, struggling to give names to those without whom my parents, my husband, our eventual daughters, and I, would not exist. Not even in Canada.

In short, to paraphrase Neil Innes: Ladies and gentlemen, I have suffered for my research.  Now it's your turn.