Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day – a celebration of motherhood.

Today is Mother’s Day here in the UK.

To mark this day, I thought I would share a few words about three amazing women in my tree.

Ann Bowers

Ann Bowers (1843-1889)
Ann Bowers (1843-1889)

Ann Bowers was born in 1843 in Wicken, Cambridgeshire. She was penultimate of the eight child of Henry Bowers and Ann Bailey.

Marrying labourer James Simpson Bishop in 1860, it wasn’t long before she began their family with the birth of their first child Ann Elizabeth Bishop in 1861. Over the next 26 years she bore another 17 children. It appears that two of these children died in their infancy.

Ann, who must have been exhausted from her continuous pregnancies and looking after an army of children, eventually succumbed to pneumonia in March 1889 and died aged 45 years. Her youngest child was just 2yrs old.

With a total of 16 living children, their labourer father would have struggled immensely to provide and care for them had it not have been for Sarah Farby (née Bowers) – Ann’s married and childless sister.

Sarah Bowers

Sarah Bowers was Ann’s (above) older sister. She married George Farby but the couple never had any children of their own. However, they lived close to the growing Bishop household and therefore Sarah helped Ann to care for her children, and upon Ann’s death in 1889, Sarah was there to help care for the children – the youngest, George Juble Bishop, being just 2yrs old.

As the family grew up and started having their own children and grandchildren, Sarah continued to care for them – earning herself the affectionate name of ‘Granny Farby’. She died just under 2 months after the death of her husband in 1920.

Sarah Elizabeth Giddings

Sarah, born in 1852, was the illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth Giddings of March, Cambridgeshire. The stigma that accompanied this fact will have worked against her and her mother from the moment that the pregnancy became known.

Sarah Elizabeth Giddings (1852-1925)
Sarah Elizabeth Giddings (1852-1925)

Sarah didn’t just face this hurdle in life – when she was 21 she lost her mother (aged 41-42yrs old). The following year (1874) she married James Martin and the couple bore their first child that year. In total, they had 12 children, but sadly, Sarah was to outlive 6 of her children, and 2 of their spouses.

Son Herbert died in a horrific train accident in France; Albert died in a German hospital; her daughter Emma and Emma’s husband both died in 1917 – leaving their orphaned daughter Mary.

Sarah’s 11yr old son William Martin died after an accident whilst working on a horse and cart in 1890;  her daughter Mary died on her day of birth in 1886; and her son Percy died within the first year of his life.

Sarah died in 1925 – a mother and a grandmother.

WANTED: Dead Or Alive

Killing off your relatives is a crucial part of your work…. as a genealogist, not as a marauding tyrant.

I’m hoping that aside from in genealogy, that there’s nowhere else where the mark of a successful day is one where you’ve killed off a load of your relatives.

Anyone tracing their family tree is sure to stumbled across at least one elusive relative at some point in their research. That relative will cause them to spend many hours following potential leads and plenty of head scratching and brow creasing before either solving or putting it off until a rainier day.

This is a routine I know well.

Help! My Grandmother was a zombie

William Yarrow and his wife Elizabeth
Elizabeth Yarrow (née Wright) seems to have died and been buried more than once.

I’ve recently struggled to kill off a maternal 4x Great Grandmother called Elizabeth Yarrow (née Wright), who appears to have died twice (about 2yrs apart) and been buried – in neighbouring parishes (!). Her death(s) fall right at the start of Death Certification in England and Wales. One of them is even noted as being in London and that her body was carried back on the train.

However, there’s seemingly no death certificate for her (the only one that matched in name turned out to be a baby), and parish records and the gravestone all contradict eachother.

The hidden Grandparents and Uncle

I’m currently struggling to find a my paternal Gtx4 Grandparents John Levitt with Elizabeth (née Skeel), and one of their sons Richard Skeel Levitt, during the 1871 census. I can find the rest of their children, but for some reason in 1871 they vanish.

I have them living in the same parish in all the censuses before and after this particular one. So, did they elude the enumerator? Were they away somewhere? – and if so, why don’t they appear somewhere else?

The surname has many variants but having done some pretty vague searches and very specific ones too, they remain elusive. Richard never married and seems to stick with his parents until their death, after which he goes to live with his other unmarried brother. It’s odd that all three seem to be missing.

The Serial Bride

Mary Watlington (formerly Martin, formerly Crisp, née Tingey)
Mary Watlington (formerly Martin, formerly Crisp, née Tingey)

Okay, to be fair, three marriages is probably nothing compared to some, but Mary Tingey surprised me. Born in 1820, she married to John Crisp in 1846. He died soon after their son was born. Within 4 years she had remarried to widower James Martin (my Gtx3 Grandfather) in 1850 and the following year they started their own family. After 5 children – with seemingly just one surviving (my ancestor) tuberculosis and scarlet fever, and then the tragic train accident that claimed her husband, Mary lived alone as a widow.  I’d hunted for her death for some time, but the searches were unsuccessful.

I hadn’t considered that instead of being buried somewhere out of step with the rest of her family or that she had been recorded for some reason under an earlier name, that she had remarried. One evening I stumbled across the marriage in 1877 with 57yr old widow Mary Martin, formerly Crisp (née Tingey) becoming the second Mrs Matthew Watlington. To add to the confusion, the new surname occasionally appears as Watling.

Check, check, check and then cross-check…. again…

These are just three of several situations where I’ve struggled to solve a puzzle. Whilst I know that checking and cross-checking is absolutely crucial to accurately recording your genealogy, it can be all too easy to accept even documentation and gravestones of the time as being accurate.

I’d like to say that I’ve learnt my lesson the hard way… but I say that every time it happens.