Friday, June 1, 2018

And more Toons (not "ours", yet): meet the Whissendine Toons!

It's easy to fall down the rabbit-hole when researching a prolific family. Like the Leicestershire Toons.

This week, I was trying to find the son of one of "my" Toons, from the branch that had nipped off to Thurmaston a few generations ago. This was a George Toon, born about 1851 in Thurmaston, the son of Arthur Toon and Elizabeth Upton. No trace of George after the 1861 census, when he and his elder sister Harriett are living with Arthur (a stocking-maker) and Elizabeth on Main Street, Thurmaston, Leicestershire. No sign of him (or Harriet) with mum and dad on the 1871 census, but by then George would have been 20, Harriett 22, and they would very likely have been making their own way in the world. No death records fit, either, I checked. He just vanished.

Friern Hospital
Photo by Philafrenzy 
So I was quite excited when I found a George Toon, born in Leicestershire, working as a porter in a lunatic asylum (!) in Friern Barnet, near London, in 1881, and then married to a Kate, and living in a cottage on the grounds of the asylum in 1901, kindly called "the farm", though whoever had transcribed the census called him George Loon. Freudian slip of the pen? Maybe this is our George! Must have been an interesting place to raise your kids... (They were living on Maidstone Rd, Friern Barnet, in 1911.)

This George had several sons, and gave them long-winded names like "Harold Edmund Victor Toon", which somehow didn't feel so Syston. I started to have doubts... something didn't feel right. (Harold Edmund Victor served in the First World War in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and in France. He was demobbed with the rank of Sergeant, Signalling.)

But how to know for sure if this was "my" George, from Thurmaston, when the later censuses only said born in Leicestershire? Work backwards...

I found the parish record for the marriage of George Toon and Catherine Ellis at the Liverpool Road Methodist Chapel in Islington, 2nd April 1885. George, a widower (I haven't found first wife yet), Catherine (or Kate)'s father named Edmund (now we know where Harold's second name came from)... and George Toon's father? A John. John Toon. Not Arthur Toon from Thurmaston. Not "my" George... but another Toon from Leicestershire. So of course, I had to work out where this Toon branch fit into the overall Leicestershire Toon tree.

Sigh... I have now traced this branch all the way back to a John Toon, born about 1765 in Whissendine. The Whissendine that one year thinks it's in Rutland, the next in Northamptonshire (many of the church records are considered "Northampton")... and later, for a while, it was in Leicestershire, before Rutland returned to the map as it should.

However... I can find no connection after 1765 with any of the Toons of Hoby or Syston or Thurmaston or Asfordby. If they are, indeed, a branch of "my" Toons, then they must have forked off before then--maybe around the mid-1600's, where we have a John and a William in Hoby and I am not sure where they end up. It looks like there were farmers in Whissendine set of Toons; brothers William and John together farm and graze over 150 acres in 1851. Cunningly, these brothers have two cousins with exactly the sames name and almost the same ages, all born in Whissendine, but I am pretty certain that the joint farmers are the sons of William Toon and Mary, not the sons of John Toon and Ann. (John, William, George in every generation... yes it is confusing.)

There are at least a couple more generations of Toons in Whissendine prior to the John of (about) 1765. Research material is a little piecemeal, and nobody else seems to be researching this family yet, at least not on Ancestry. If you borrow any data from my tree on Ancestry, be sure to look at the comments because there is quite a bit of supposition and caution...

I did, however, find this interesting story on a history website about Whissendine:

Also buried within the Churchyard, is Nanny Toon, ‘The Whissendine Witch’. Annie lived in a mud cottage on Horton’s Lane at the end of the nineteenth century, and was reputed to be particularly mindful of local farmers who overloaded their milk-carts. Anybody breaking her limits would have a curse put on them preventing their milk turning into butter. The local carter was a recurrent offender. Annie Toon is said to have been murdered by the local villagers by means of being covered in a barrel of treacle. Interesting story, probably not true – one can’t really expect a mob of angry villagers to bring about the abrupt demise of an apparently evil old lady and then lovingly inter her in a prestigious position within the local Churchyard, up close to the Porch, can one?

So which Toon is this??? Murdered???  Oh but wait... there are no dates ("end of the 19th"), no marital status (widow or spinster?), no age other than "evil old lady". I searched the censuses, and there is no Ann, Annie, Hannah or any other female Toon, in Whissendine, at the end of the 19th, at least not according to the censuses. There is a 77-year-old Ann Toon who died in Whissendine in February, 1855--hardly at the end of the century. But I couldn't resist ordering her certificate, to find out if there was treacle involved, and if so, how much.

Now to go back to the orginal quest... finding the missing George-of-Thurmaston. And if I come across a the missing link between "my" Toons and the Whissendine bunch, I'll let you know.

UPDATE: The certificate came, it wasn't the right widow Toon to be the witch. I also went to the churchyard and furtled around trying to find the gravestone, up close to the porch, and failed miserably. A lot of that part of the churchyard is overgrown so she might be hiding somewhere, but a helpful gentleman showed me the burial record book and we couldn't find her in there either. Myth or what?

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