Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Barrass Matriarch

Sarah Hempseed was baptised on 11 January 1767 at St Alban's, Earsdon. She was the daughter of William Hempseed and Catherine Ledger, and is my 5x great-grandmother.

On 7 February 1784, Sarah married Alexander Barrass at St Alban's, Earsdon when she was about seventeen years of age. Alexander was a pitman from nearby Hartley and together he and went on to have ten children.

St Alban's, Earsdon

Alexander died in January 1826, at the age of sixty-four. By that time, he and Sarah had moved to Benton Square. After Alexander's death, Sarah spent time living with her children who all lived nearby in numerous different mining villages. 

Her son William lived in Benton Square, running the Wheat Sheaf Inn with his wife. Sarah was living there when she died on 3 October 1850, twenty-four years after her husband's death. Sarah was 83-years-old, and died of Climacteric Disease; general decline or a sudden alteration in health. She was later buried alongside her husband in the family grave at St Alban's church, Earsdon, the same church where they had wed. 

The Barrass family grave,
with St Alban's church behind.

On 12 October, Sarah's name appeared in the death column of the Newcastle Guardian newspaper. The Newcastle Guardian expanded and described more of Sarah's family life, showing her to be a true matriarch:

"At Benton Square, on the 2nd inst. aged 85, much respected, Sarah, widow of the late Mr Alexander Barrass; deceased has left no less than sixty-five children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and forty-three of them attended her remains to the grave."

Although they did get Sarah's date of death incorrect, I find this entry so remarkable. I'd like to think that Sarah was a very caring and maternal woman, as the number of granddaughters named in her honour suggests. 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The 1939 Register - Update

At the stoke of midnight on 16 February, Find My Past added the 1939 Register to their subscription. No doubt, this is due to the huge backlash when Find My Past reported that the Register would only be available through purchasing credits. I for one am thankful that Find My Past have changed their minds.

I've already solved one mystery! I knew that my great-grandmother's sister, Margaret Taylor had married Robert Gray in 1884. Together they had at least five children. Margaret and Robert are missing from the 1911, and in six years of researching I have never came close to finding them, until now. I assumed they must have died as their children could be found living around with family members. 

I knew Margaret's birthdate from her baptism record, which is great as the 1939 Register includes the nation's dates of birth - and so Margaret and Robert were easily found! The couple were living alone in Blyth, close to where they lived before they went missing. Margaret is described as "Incapacitated".

Now that the Register is included in the subscriptions, I can also attempt to find friends of the family, or even people named in family anecdotes. 

The first person I just had to find was a lady named Mrs Norah Smith. She is spoken of in my family quite a lot as she was a close friend of my maternal grandmother, who helped her deliver some of her children. Her husband was named Harry, and at one point they lived in the flat above my grandparents. 

To my surprise I found Henry and Norah Smith living at No. 2 Orange Street, Annitsford in 1939, only three doors from my great-grandparents who lived at No. 5. Harry was born in 1900, and Norah in 1908.

Another person I thought to look for was a local shop-owner known as Lancey Boward. One aunt of mine speaks quite fondly of the shop he owned and everything he sold inside. Lancey, or Lancelot Boward was living at 26 Jubilee Terrace, Annitsford with his wife, Annie. He is described as a "Sub Postmaster" and a general dealer. An annotation also tells me that he was a special constable. 

These are just a handful of the things I have found. I can't wait to see what more there is to discover from this wonderful resource. 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The Scottish Bigamist

Last week I told the story of Elizabeth White, the illegitimate half-sister of my 2x great-grandmother, Agnes Carroll. This week I will tell the scandalous and sad tale of Elizabeth's daughter, Agnes Duffy.

Agnes Duffy was born in Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland on 19 November 1879. Her parents were John Duffy and Elizabeth White. Agnes's mother was the illegitimate daughter of Jean Duffy and Peter White, a ship carpenter. As far as I can tell the two Duffy families were not related.

Agnes Duffy's birth registration.

Soon after her birth, the Duffy family moved to the nearby coal-mining town, Larkhall. They lived there for a few years, but migrated to the United States in about 1884. After a short stint in America, the family returned to Larkhall, living there throughout the 1890s. 

On 30 December 1898, when Agnes was nineteen-years-old, she married a man named Robert McCord at Larkhall. One week after the wedding, Robert deserted Agnes, but not before telling her that their marriage was a mistake and she could marry again if she wished. 

Agnes and Robert's marriage entry.

Ten months later, Robert returned. The couple moved to Shotts, Lanarkshire and lived together there for six weeks, until again Robert deserted Agnes. He firstly went to Glasgow, but then to Yorkshire, England. When he was settled, he sent for Agnes to join him there, which she did. All alone and miles away from her family, Agnes was again deserted, and this time wasn't left a penny. 

Agnes somehow got back to her family in Scotland, who now moved to the Methil area of Fife. There she met a man named Michael Boyle. On 3 April 1904, Agnes received a letter from her estranged husband. In the letter, Robert stated he was happily married. So on 24 December 1904, Agnes married Michael Boyle in Edinburgh. Agnes was now a bigamist. 

The entry of the bigamous marriage.

The marriage was short lived, and just over three months to the date, Agnes was imprisoned on 25 March 1905 on the charge of bigamy. Agnes pleaded guilty to the offence at Edinburgh on 6 April, and on her behalf a solicitor told her side of the story. Taking into consideration that she had been so ill-treated, the Judge was lenient and sentenced Agnes to thirty days in prison. The sentence was to start from the first date of imprisonment, 25 March 1905. After prison, Agnes reunited with Michael Boyle and raised a family together in Wemyss, Fife. 

Fifteen years later, the bigamy scandal was resurrected when Robert McCord started the proceedings to divorce Agnes on the grounds of infidelity, after years of estrangement, as he was in a relationship and wished to marry again. The divorce was granted on 6 July 1920, and Robert remarried ten days later.

Not even two years later Agnes died at her home on 30 January 1922. She was only forty-years-old, and died of pulmonary tuberculosis. Her second 'husband' Michael Boyle had died years before.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Looking for Lizzie

Last April I wrote a blog post on the life of my 3x great-grandmother, Jane or Jean Duffy. On 5 March 1858, when Jean was around 20 years of age, she gave birth out of wedlock to Elizabeth White. Elizabeth's father was reputed to be named Peter White, a ship carpenter. In my original post, I presumed that Elizabeth had died in infancy, as I could not find a later record of her. I can now admit that my presumption was wrong and I have uncovered her story. 

Elizabeth White was born on 5 March 1858 at Netherton Colliery, New Kilpatrick. Her father was recorded as Peter White, a ship carpenter who was not present at the registration of her birth. Elizabeth's mother Jean was working at a paper mill at the time. 

Elizabeth's birth entry.
Elizabeth was later baptised on 27 March, although her birthdate was given as the 26 February, which is obviously a mistake on the priest's part. Elizabeth's only godparent, or sponsor, was a woman named Mary Callaghan

Jean Duffy married my 3x great-grandfather, Bernard Carroll, on 6 July 1860 at Rutherglen, and so Elizabeth became a step-sister to Bernard's children from his first marriage. Although her mother went to live at Rutherglen, Elizabeth stayed behind in New Kilpatrick and lived with her uncle William Duffy

Little is known about Elizabeth's childhood, but by 1871 she was back living with her mother, step-father and siblings. She later worked in a cotton mill.

On 20 December 1877, Elizabeth married a coal miner named John Duffy at St Bridget's Catholic Church, Baillieston. Although John shared his surname with Elizabeth's mother, it is believed that they were not related. There are a few lies on the marriage entry, but they are fairly typical of an illegitimate child. 

Her father was recorded as William White, rather than Peter, who was a coal miner. Her mother Jean Carroll was reported as Jane White, formerly Duffy. It was quite common back then for illegitimate children to make up a history of themselves, inventing a father to name on the marriage certificate. Elizabeth must have told the priest that her parents were married. One of the witnesses to the union was Bernard Carroll, either her step-father or step-brother.

Soon after marrying, Elizabeth and John moved to Blantyre, a mining town not very far away. Here Elizabeth gave birth to the couple's first child in November 1879. They had a baby girl and named her Agnes. I can only assume that their baby was named after my 2x great-grandmother, Agnes Carroll

From Blantyre the Duffys moved to Larkhall, where they had their second child John, born in February 1881. Shortly after the family moved to the United States where they had two more children, Patrick and Robert

Back in Larkhall, Elizabeth's half-sister, and my 2x great-grandmother, Agnes gave birth to a baby boy in March 1894. The baby was named John Duffy Leslie in honour of his uncle-in-law. Baby John sadly died in December of the same year of pneumonia. 

The Duffy family were back in Larkhall by September 1896 when Elizabeth gave birth to the couple's fifth child, Peter, followed by their sixth, Joseph, in September 1898. In the mid-1900s the family moved to the Kirkcaldy area of Fife, where they remained for many years. 

Elizabeth White Duffy died on 3 May 1927 at Denbeath, Wemyss, Fife. She died of chronic cholecystitis, a sudden inflammation of the gallbladder. On her death certificate her mother was recorded as Jane White, formerly Duffy, so perhaps the family believed this to be true. Her father was noted as Peter White, a ship wright. 

Elizabeth's death entry.