Thursday, November 14, 2019

More about my lost Frosts... and why we need to keep on remembering our history

I'm still trying to trace my little family of Lost Frosts: Eliza nee Worthy and her children Elizabeth, Maria, and Richard junior. Still no luck: they vanished into thin air, changed all their names, were kidnapped by aliens, emigrated under pseudonyms, or just slipped away into the shadows or lost census pages. (I discovered that I cannot find Eliza or her Worthy parents and siblings in the 1861 census because the pages that document the part of Lewin street that they were most likely living on (5 Lewin Street) have been lost: they are missing from all online copies.)

What I have found is two more daughters born to Richard Frost and Eliza nee Worthy: Elizabeth (their first Elizabeth) born 5th January 1871, and Clara born at the very end of 1871 or early in January 1872. This newly-discovered Elizabeth died, only thirteen days old, from convulsions. Clara, who must have been conceived very quickly after sister Elizabeth, little darling, lived until she was five years old... and then scarlet fever killed her, right around the time that her little sister Maria was born. What tragedy for the parents.

I found no other babies between Eliza's marriage to Richard, and his death in 1882. But there are two-year gaps between the other children, and no child at all after Richard Junior's birth in 1878: I'd bet there were miscarriages in the gaps, or unregistered births and deaths.

This is the ongoing story of family history research. My ancestors were poor, all of them, all except a very very few, like one or two generations of Mountneys before they became scoundrels on canal boats, and shepherd William North of Seagrave who had a cottage and a horse to bequeath to his children, or the farmer Bonnetts of Whitwick who had their own tragedies after John contributed to my tree. There are no ancestral knights in shining armour, no "blue blood", no hidden riches. They were hardworking people: blacksmiths and bootmakers and shoe finishers and framework knitters; lacemakers and even a milliner (hatmaker). They fought for the country and were lucky and escaped, most of them, with their lives, their bodies and minds never forgetting.

One thread runs through it all, from the 1500's until last century, the century I was born in: huge families, many children, and so very many - far too many - infant and childhood deaths. So many parents lost way too young, their bereaved partner then finding someone else to help raise the kids. Multiple births and multiple losses; children fading after a parent dies; health problems due to their occupations; parish records with page after page of burials for "an infant", "child of", or aged under 30.

What changed in the 20th century? Several things: first and foremost, the National Health Service, making health care available to everyone, no matter how poor, no matter if they lived in the industrial city streets or in little villages. Equality in voting and election process for women. Schooling continuing into late teens, enormous progress in workers rights and safety at work - made even stronger by the common rules of the European Union. The availability of contraception to those who want it, and sex education for all. And yet... today it feels like the world wants to turn the clock back.

Has everyone forgotten where we all came from?

Before you go and cast a vote for someone who swears they represent you, yet will convert your healthcare to a for-profit business, or will strip away the workers' rights today guaranteed by law, think about what your ancestors too experienced. Remember those who had babies, each and every year, and lost half of them. The parents - men and women alike - who worked until they dropped, including those who managed to survive until their 70's and 80's, because they had no pension to survive on. The families living ten to a room, without the heating and electricity that we take very much for granted today.

They deserve a vote, too. Don't mess it up.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

More Syston butchers, a load of tripe, and a few gypsy tales (part three)

An idea of the travels of Frederick and Eliza
Google Maps
(If you didn't read part one, start here. Part two, here.) 

By combining the locations of censuses, births and deaths, and newspaper reports, we can get a picture of just how far the travellers roamed. Frederick and Eliza Blankley kept within the boundaries of the East Midlands, and mostly within Leicestershire, with occasional visits to Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. I found them as far south as Hinckley and as far north as Derby and Nottingham, but no further east than Syston, and no further west than Ashby de la Zouch. This map is plotted on today's roads: no doubt they took the country ways, along tracks that may no longer exist. And we have no insight into the days between the official records, no idea how long they stayed in each place.

I wondered why Frederick returned to living in a fixed house, after Eliza died. And why, after all those years on the road, with horses pulling his home and earning his income, he should decide to become a horse slaughterer.

Maybe it was because it was the only way he could get the darn things to stay in one place.

 On 27 September 1890, Frederick Blankley was fined for allowing four asses to stray, in Syston, Leicestershire. On 13 June 1891, working as a showman in Leicester Forest East, he was fined for allowing both horses and asses to stray, (plus having two unlicensed dogs). 14 July 1894, in Shepshed, Leicestershire, same thing, but this time with eight asses, two horses and one mare. Just two weeks after that on 28 July 1894, he was in Loughborough and his two horses, two donkeys and a mare were wandering about on the Derby Road, near Swing Bridge Lane, in the middle of the night. 12 March 1898, back in Syston, fined again - three horses and three donkeys on the loose. 23 July 1898, in Ratcliffe on the Wreake, Fred Blankley a showman, no fixed abode, and with six previous convictions for cattle straying, fined for - wait for it - four horses and fourteen, yes fourteen, asses. (I wonder if by this time he was looking after the fairground donkey rides?) On 17 September 1898 Fred was in court again, not this time for stray cattle, but after a fight with another family over a field to camp in, in Costock, Nottinghamshire. 17 June 1899, back to Loughborough again, and those dratted, wandering animals: fined once more, for allowing four asses to stray. 

I have not found any other newspaper stories or court reports after Eliza passed away. It looks like Frederick left the travelling community - I wonder how that worked, as he was only there through his marriage to Eliza, not from his own family roots. Would he have been asked to leave? Was it through his own choice? Did he miss the life, away from the road and the campsites, or did he relish the idea of staying in a solid house, in one place, after so much travel? We may never know - but we do know that his occupation became that of the person who puts the end to horses' lives, living and working in George Yard, Loughborough. Horses were being replaced by motor vehicles, both for transport and for farm work. Sadly, there must have been a demand for his trade, and hopefully it was all done humanely. 

Frederick and his second wife, Mary Ann nee Kellam, went on to have three children who survived infancy: Lillian May, born in 1905, who later married a Tom Burton from Barrow upon Soar; Percy, born in 1906, who lived to the great old age of 89, and Harry, born in 1909 and died in 1989. 

Frederick Charles Blankley passed away in the middle of 1931, in Loughborough, Leicestershire. three years after his son Fred junior.

I still have to tell you about little Ernest. That's part four of the story.

All news articles from the Leicestershire Chronicle, with kind permission of

Saturday, January 5, 2019

More Syston butchers, a load of tripe, and a few gypsy tales (part two)

Marriage of Frederick Charles Blankley and Eliza Smith, 13 June 1880
by kind permission of
(If you didn't read part one, start here.)

Frederick Charles Blankley, born in Syston, Leicestershire in 1858, son of John Corner Blankley and Charlotte Toon, decendant of a long line of butchers, he is where our story becomes much more interesting. While his ancestors seem to have lived in houses on streets of small towns and villages, Frederick Charles Blankley married into a family of horse dealers and travellers, lived in a horse-drawn caravan, and worked at a travelling fair. And it really wasn't all glamorous every day. The life was hard.

Eliza Smith was baptised in Whissendine, Rutland, on 30th May, 1858. Her father, John Smith; her mother, Selina on the baptism record, but maybe Carolina - records and researchers are not really clear after the baptism. John and Selina of no abode, occupation 'traveller'. In 1871, Eliza seems to be part of a huge family group, with John Smith possibly having two wives: Selina and Maria, but the census-taker might have messed up, or missed someone out. For certain, they are all travellers, living in caravans, in a field on Regent Hill, Sneinton, Nottingham, a track off Windmill Lane to the south, which no longer exists.

I am not going to attempt to try to disentangle the gypsy family that Frederick Charles Blankley married into: other researchers with far more traveller knowledge have tried, and the best account I can find is here: Johnny Two-Wives Smith, by Eric Trudgill on Gypsy Geneaology, which explains Eliza's mother being Carolina and Selina. I do want to take a look, however, at the reality of living as part of a travelling community in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Example fairground caravan, unknown family,
Coalville, Leicestershire, about 1900from NFCA Digital Collection

On the night of the 1901 census, Frederick Charles Blankley and Eliza nee Smith were living in a caravan, somewhere within the parish of Shepshed, Leicestershire. Fred is a horse dealer working at a stables: so is one of his sons, also called Fred. We lost track of the family in 1891: they may well have been travelling under the name Smith, not Blankley, in Derby and with a group of gypsy travellers and performers: Fred a horse dealer, living with Eliza and two sons, John aged 7 and Frederick junior aged 4, again in a caravan. Other families in the group included more horse dealers, roundabout and  swing boat proprietors, cocoa sellers, people who looked afters shooting galleries and riding donkeys: all those who would have made up a wonderful travelling fair. It's hard to be 100% certain that this is indeed our Frederick Charles and Eliza due to the name change: likely, but not certain. However, at the baptism of Nathan (born 1896), Fred's occupation is given as a travelling showman.

It seems nice, life on the road in a caravan. Romantic and free. You imagine beautiful horses, colourful homes, green grass and blue skies; a life outside of the rules of society. However, after 1838, like every other citizen, the travellers were still bound by law to report births and marriages and deaths. Frederick Charles and Eliza were no different: they reported the births of their babies. And far too often, they had to report their deaths, too.

These are the children that I have found, so far. Only John, Fred, Ernest and Sydney survived infancy. (At least, I think these are all from the same family - if there are errors that you know of, let me know.)

And poor Eliza. She passed away in her caravan, in Loughborough, on 15th December 1901, from postpartum haemorrhage, most likely at the same time as the last baby, a female, was born and died. Eliza was 43 years old.

I have not ordered the death certificates of all those babies - in a way I don't want to find out what happened to all those little ones: they were not all newborns, they survived one, three, six months, even a year or more. I can too easily imagine poverty and ill-health, in a little, cramped, colourful house on wheels.

Frederick Charles remarried, to Mary Ann Kellam in 1904, and they lived in a house, on George Yard, in Loughborough, just off the market place. Frederick's occupation, in 1911, along with his son Ernest, was that of horse slaughterer. A sad contrast to the life on the road, I think.

More about Ernest in part three... or maybe part four!

And see the wonderful collection of fairground photos at the National Fairground and Circus Archive (NFCA)

UPDATE: I couldn't resist... ordered the certs for four of the little ones. Little Flora was two months old when she died of bronchitis in March, 1888. George, aged four years in January 1889 died of pneumonia and meningitis. The family gave the same address for both, 11 The Rushes, Loughborough. Charles died aged 14 days in Sandiacre on 16th September, 1900, from "imperfect heart development". And the last of Eliza's babies, simply recorded as female, no first name, was only 16 hours old when she passed away from convulsions in the caravan in Loughborough - the day after her mother died. Seems just like a random thread of horrible luck.

More Syston butchers, a load of tripe, and a few gypsy tales (part one)

Honeycomb tripe
image shared under Creative Commons licensing
There are a couple of more unusual family names that wind in-and-out of my paternal tree (in both my grandad Toon's, and my grandma Riley's, lines, so much so that there I have relationships with several ancestors in multiple ways) and I have been exploring them: Possnett and Blankley. Like the Toons, they are sprinkled around the area between Syston, Loughborough and Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, with occasional forays into other areas, but not a lot of roaming until we find the Blankley that married a Smith, and then they were definitely travelling, in caravans.

In the story about The Butchers of Syston, we met my great-great-great-grandmother, Ann nee Possnett (b. 1778), who married James Toon (b. 1767). Ann Possnett's own great-grandmother was a Blankley: Elizabeth Blankley, baptised in Hoby, Leicestershire, in 1692. (This part of my heritage brought up two lovely names that have faded with time: Leonard (Possnett) and Gabriel (Blankley), names which were used through several generations. Now I have both Gabriel and Emmanuel in my blood. What does that say?)

Closer to my generation, and in Syston, Leicestershire, my great-great aunt Charlotte Toon (b. 1836, daughter of Richard Toon and his first wife Catherine Cooper) married John Corner Blankley in Syston on 30th January, 1859. Their son, Frederick Charles Blankley, was born sometime in 1858, before the marriage: there was a bastardy order placed against John Corner Blankley which was then abandoned, presumably because the parents married each other. John Corner Blankley and Charlotte went on to have several more children:  Catherine in 1859, Harry in 1865, Mary in 1866 and Florence Anne in 1872. There are a few gaps: maybe there were more children or pregnancies, not found yet. In 1861 and 1871 the family were lodgers in the home of John Brown, in Syston, but by 1881 they had moved to Tollerton in Nottinghamshire (and John Brown from Syston, their previous landlord, was their visitor in Tollerton - possibly connected to John Corner Blankley's paternal grandmother, who was a Mary Brown, born in Syston in about 1777).

John Corner Blankley's father was Charles Blankley, and guess what. He was a butcher, and he lived in Syston, on High Street. His father - John C's grandad - George Blankley was a butcher, too. I checked the 1841 census again, and realised that I had missed a few in the original story: there were at least three more Syston butchers, two called Sheffield and one called Charles Blankley, in Syston, in 1841. As well as John the eldest child, he and his wife Jane nee Corner had three more sons: William (born 1839) worked on the railway, went to London, and ran a coffee house. Charles (born 1849)  was a 'beast dresser', probably involved in butchery in 1871, but later worked as a labourer. Frederick, born 1853,  was a shoe finisher who was married and living in Leicester by 1861. Daughters Elizabeth (1837), Emma 1838), and Mary Ann (1843) the second - another Mary Ann born 1832 died in infancy) completed the family.
Butchers of Syston as listed in the
Gazetteer & Directory of Leicestershire & Rutland, 1861

John Corner Blankley was a butcher too, of a special kind: in 1861 and 1871, he was a tripe dresser. The guy who took the first three stomachs of cows, cleaned and scraped and prepared them, and made them fit for humans to eat. While tripe is no longer part of most peoples' diets today, it's not so long ago that people ate it frequently: I remember my own grandad gently simmering honeycomb tripe, in milk, with onions and either nutmeg or mace or cloves; my memory has me scudding through the kitchen, not wanting to see the skin on the milk but fascinated by the shapes in the tripe.

(And this is where we see the interconnections in the tree: while Charlotte Toon was my great-great aunt, John Corner Blankley was also my fourth cousin, four times removed.)

By the time the family were living in Tollerton in Nottinghamshire in 1818, John Corner Blankley had progressed from tripe dresser to cattle dealer. That might have had something to do with his eldest son, Frederick Charles, and the gypsies. More about that in part two of this story!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Henry Hackett, prison hulks, deportation to Tasmania... and magical babies

A prison hulk, Deptford, artist unknown.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Henry Hackett was the maternal grandfather of husband of one of my great-great-aunts, and maybe not even that... so a rather distant relation. And things became even more, way more distant, when he was deported for burglary! It's a story of prison hulks, Dickensian images, and a family that kept growing despite him being on the other side of the world.

Henry Hackett was born in Wigston, Leicestershire, in 1818. I believe he was baptised in Wigston Magna (Greater Wigston) Independent chapel on 15th March, 1819, to parents William Hackett and Charlotte (nee Bates). Henry married Esther Brewin (also spelled Bruin) on 23 November, 1838, when both bride and groom were aged twenty. The wedding ceremony was performed at the Anglican church in Wigston Magna--All Saints'--and both of the spouses' fathers, and the spouses themselves, were all working as framework knitters.

Henry and Esther's first child, a daughter, Mary Brewin Hackett, was born during the second quarter of 1839, and the second child, another girl named Sarah Ann, was born in the second quarter of 1841. (Sarah Ann is the one who later marries Samuel Cawthorn, and whose son then marries my great-aunt, Elizabeth Bonnett.)

At least, I am pretty certain that Sarah Ann is Henry's daughter. I have ordered Sarah Ann's birth certificate to be 100% sure. Without the birth certificate, we cannot know Sarah Ann's exact birth date--it could be any day between mid-March and June 30th. Most likely, she was born at during the early part of the registration quarter. Why does this matter? It matters, because on 7th August, 1840, Henry Hackett was sentenced, in Leicester, to ten years' deportation, and despatched to a prison hulk, Justitia, in Woolwich, London, before being shipped to Tasmania, Australia in May, 1841 on the convict ship called David Clark, one of 308 prisoners making the journey. I doubt that conjugal visits were allowed on prison hulks, though you never know.

Leicestershire Mercury, 8 August 1940.
By kind permission of
Henry Hackett was charged with breaking into the house of a Mrs. Fox in Wigston, and stealing "jars, keys, and other items". The Leicestershire Mercury on 8th August went into more detail, and stated that he was suspected of stealing two pounds of mutton, a pound of butter, a loaf of bread, five jars of preserves, and a jar of pickles. Someone was hungry. Maybe his wife was craving the pickles during early pregnancy. If he had stolen the goods for his  family rather than to resell, or just because he wanted a snack, then very sadly, Henry was soon to leave his wife and child in a far hungrier state. Committed to trial at the county assizes, and then sent to London, he ended up on the other side of the world, never to return. He died in Richmond, Tasmania, on 19th November, 1847.

New South Wales and Tasmania Convict Musters
By kind permission of
The prison hulk that Henry was held on for the months prior to shipping out to Tasmania, was called the Justitia in 1840, but had had a long prior history as the HMS Hindostan, sailing to India, Australia, the Mediterranean. No longer seaworthy, by 1840 she had been "hulked"--her masts and other parts removed, leaving just the hull and decks--and converted to a prison--a common practice in the early 19th century. The sort of place that Abel Magwitch escaped from in Dickens' Great Expectations.

The ship David Clark had already been to Australia in 1839, that time carrying the first emigrants under the assisted-passage program: encouraging people to settle "down under". Those that were on the ship in 1841 didn't make the voyage of their own choice, and may even have been put to work for some of the people on the 1839 voyage. (There is a picture of the David Clark on various websites, but reproduction is prohibited. Try here. Or here but this link was not responding for me.)

The bridge in Richmond, Tasmania
Under Creative Commons licensing via Wikimedia Commons
Richmond, Tasmania, was the end of Henry Hackett. Unless, of course, Henry had a personal transporter that allowed him to return to Leicestershire and impregnate his wife several  more times, both before, and after, his death. Emma Louisa Hackett was born in 1846, with Adah Maria in 1850, Amelia Catherine in 1855, and Martha Ellen in 1860. (All were registered as Hackett, in Esther's married name, despite no Henry in sight!) It might have taken a while for news of Henry's death to reach Wigston Magna, allowing Esther to marry again: in 1851, Esther was living with her sister, Mary Percival, Esther's baby Adah only eight months old and Henry long gone; in 1861 she was living as a housekeeper in the household of John Holmes, a 42 year old bachelor. In 1871? Esther was Mrs Esther Holmes, having married John in 1864.

I obviously have to do more research into Esther's children after Sarah Ann, before she marries John Holmes. (Amelia) Catherine gives no father on her marriage certificate:

Marriage of Amelia Catherine Hackett to Henry Frederick Wells in 1873
with kind permission from
I wonder if there are any Hackett descendants in Hobart?

UPDATE: Sarah Ann was indeed registered as Henry's daughter. Born on the 22 April, 1941 in Wigston Magna (Greater Wigston), her mother Esther must have been only three or four weeks pregnant when Henry was sent for trial at the Assizes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Joseph John (Henry) Carvell. And a confusion of names for his lady, Sarah Jane

Joseph John (Henry) Carvell was my great-great uncle, older brother by a few years of great-grandad Samuel Henry Carvell. The (Henry) in his name is because on one documented occasion, and one only--the baptism of four of his children, all on one day--his name was recorded as John Henry. At all other times he was Joseph John, or simply Joseph. To avoid confusion with another brother, Henry, I will stick to Joseph John.

Joseph John Carvell was born in Walcote, Leicestershire, to parents Samuel Carvell (1816-1898) and Jane nee Brown (1824-1877), within Misterton parish in the rural west of the county, on 6th September, 1863. He was baptised there, privately, two weeks later, on 21st September. A private baptism might indicate that little Joseph John was sick, though the register says that it was the rector, and not a local nurse or midwife, who officiated. (Baptisms could be done by anyone and then later 'brought into the church', but this appears to have been a church baptism, just private.) If it was because Joseph John was sick, he happily survived.

Map indicating location of Tan House Farm
Bromsgrove District
Joseph John's father, Samuel Carvell, was an agricultural labourer, as were many people living in the village of Walcote at that time. By 1871, when Joseph John is seventeen years old, he is working as a footman, and as little brother great-grandad Samuel Henry Carvell is already working, aged 12, as a farmer's boy, it's likely that Joseph John has been working for several years already.

Then in 1881, while Samuel Henry is a soldier in the 6th Regiment and barracked at the Tower of London, Joseph John has travelled to Stoke Prior in Worcestershire, where he is working as a butler for the Mays family at Tan House Farm. At some point between April 1881 and about 1888, Joseph John returns to Leicestershire, becomes a gardener, and meets up with Sarah Jane... and that is where all the name confusion begins.

Sarah Jane first appears in the censuses as Sarah Jane Bennett, a two-year-old boarder in the home of William Hyde. The family consists of William aged 45, Sarah Hyde his wife, aged 35, William's sons James aged 13 and Tom aged 10, plus little Sarah Jane Bennett and an older Jane Bennett, aged 15, also a 'boarder'. The census doesn't indicate if Jane and Sarah Jane are sisters, but I think Jane is far too young to be Sarah Jane's mother. I can find no indication that the two Bennett girls are William Hyde's step-daughters... there is no Hyde-Bennett marriage to be found. Nor is little Sarah Jane's mother's name easy to identify: there is a Sarah Jane born to an Elizabeth Bennett, no father named, in January 1859, but no way to be 100% certain it's the 'right' Sarah Jane... nor why she and Jane Bennett are living with the Hydes. Sarah Jane Bennett--still called Bennett--is still living with the Hydes, on Benford Street in Leicester, in 1871. Aged 12, she is already working as a "fancy hand"--probably doing delicate hand-work in Leicester's hosiery industry.

In the summer of 1879, Sarah Jane gives birth to a baby girl, Mary Edith Bennett. No father named. (I'll have more to say about Mary Edith later... there is a whole set of stories there!)

But by the time that Sarah Jane marries a William Burdett on 7th March, 1881, she is using the name, Sarah Jane Hyde. Did William adopt her? Or was it simply easier to say to the vicar or parish clerk that Mr. Hyde was her father? It took a while for me to track down that marriage, even though I knew that at some point between the 1871 census, and the 1891 census when she is living in Evington, Leicester, and Joseph John Carvell is her "boarder", her name had changed to Burdett!

Marriage of Sarah Janee Bennett or Hyde to William Burdett
by kind permission of
In the 1891 census, Sarah Jane Burdett, still a "fancy" workier, now with two daughters, Mary Edith (now listed as Mary Edith Burdett), and Daisy Georgina Burdett (born 12 October 1890, and what a lovely name!) are living at 29 Leicester Street in Evington. Joseph John Carvell is their lodger, and he is working as a gardener. There is no sign of William Burdett, though the census says that Sarah Jane is a married woman--and that Joseph John is single.

1891 census entry for Sarah Jane nee Bennett and Joseph John Carvell
I can find no record of William Burdett's death, and nothing at all to say that Sarah Jane is a widow. There is no newspaper story of anything untoward happening to Mr. Burdett, such as imprisonment or disappearance or such: nothing. Just one news item, saying that a William Burdett of 16 Christow Street was fined 2 s. 6 d. for not sending his children to school regularly, dated 18 April, 1889, in the Leicester Daily Mercury... but no way of knowing if it is indeed regarding Sarah Jane's children, or even the same William Burdett. I suspect that the couple simply split up and carried on their lives as if the other no longer existed. (If you know anything to the contrary, please let me know!)

Baptisms of the Carvell Burdett children
by kind permission of
During the 1890's, and by the time of the 1901 census--when Sarah Jane's surname has become Carvell--there are more children born: Wallis Carvell Burdett (1891-1899), two Joseph Carvell Burdetts, the first of whom was born and died in 1894, the second who was born in 1897, and Percy Henry Carvell Burdett, born in 1898, died in 1899. All of these children's births are registered with Carvell as a middle name, Burdett as their surnames, indicating that the parents probably were not legally married. Wallis, the older Joseph, Percy and Daisy Georgina were all baptised on the same day, 4th December, 1898, in Belgrave, Leicester. The family were living at 90 Checketts Road: the road still exists, but that house does not. What prompted the mass baptism? Did William Burdett pass away, allowing Sarah Jane and Joseph John to do as they pleased? Or were the children sick--note that Percy Henry and Wallace would be dead within a year--leading the parents to want them to be baptised before meeting their God? I haven't a clue.

By the day of the 1911 census, the family is living in Anstey, Leicestershire: Joseph John is still a (domestic) gardener, Sarah Jane (simply 'Jane' on the census document) is still a Carvil (sp.) and still Joseph's wife; daughter Daisy Georgina and son Joseph are the only surviving children, both of whom are already working in the shoe trade, even Joseph junior, aged 14. Mary Edith married John Hendry in 1900 and has her own family to take care of. The census says that John Joseph and Sarah Jane have been married for 23 years, so since about 1888, but that was contradicted earlier by the 1891 census, which shows Joseph John as being single, albeit living in the same house as Sarah Jane Burdett. Most likely, 1888 is when their relationship began. The 1911 census also shows that there were five children born to the marriage, and only two surviving, which matches up with the loss of Wallace, Percy Henry and the younger Joseph... but doesn't take into account that Daisy Josephine might be from Sarah Jane's marriage to William Burdett. Intriguing...

Joseph Carvell the younger serves in the First World War as a lorry (truck) driver, and then in 1925, he emigrated to Australia, where he lived until his death, in Victoria, in 1966. Daisy Georgina... Burdett or Carvell? She married a William D Hooke in 1924 in Belgrave, Leicester, and had at least two daughters of her own, Josephine and Alma Georgina.

As for Joseph John, and Sarah Jane Bennett-Hyde-Burdett-Carvell, I think they lived happily ever after... because I haven't yet tracked down when they passed away!

I can see where I get my gardening genes from... several Carvell ancestors found their vocations as gardeners!

7 Mar 1881

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Ninteen under twenty-four... and that must be a record. That's nineteen babies, in twenty-four years.

Baby shower for Tiffany, expecting Easton, May 18 2013
Happy and healthy pregnancies today
I thought that my paternal great-great-grandfather, Richard Toon, had a large family: two wives and fifteen or more children. That was before I started looking at the Bennetts... and found Walter Bennett and his wife, Elizabeth nee Weston, who raised their family in Leicester: at first, on Caroline Street, then on Sheridan Street, and by 1911, at 95 Knighton Fields Road West--a typical Leicester brick terraced house, with two or three bedrooms at most.

The information on the 1911 census is incredible, shocking, and sad. My mouth dropped open when I read it.

Walter is quite a distant relative, first-cousin-three-times-removed, on my maternal side. His father was John Bennett born in 1798 in Hinkley, Leicestershire, my great-great-great-grandfather. Walter's sister, Roseanna Bennet born 1827, married John Gask: their daughter, Elizabeth Alice Gask, born in 1854 married Henry Bonnett, my great-grandfather. I found Walter Bennett and his wife Elizabeth while rambling through the censuses looking at Roseanna's family... and what a family it is. (There will be more Bennett stories!)

The 1911 census is a mine of information. Not only does it list everyone in the house on the night of Sunday, April 2nd 1911, it is also completed in the head of the house's own handwriting. It not only gives the ages and occupations of everyone in the household on that night, it also tells you how long the couple (if a couple and not a single householder) has been married, how many children have been born to the marriage, and how many are still alive in 1911.

Walter and Elizabeth Bennett? They had been married 24 years in 1911. During that time, Elizabeth had given birth to nineteen, yes, 19 children. NINETEEN! Within twenty-four years... can you imagine? And very sadly, only eleven were still alive in 1911. That's an infant, or childhood, mortality rate of almost 50%. Horrific. That's an average of one child every 15 months... six months or less between pregnancies. Ouch.

I cannot believe that life was any less precious in 1900 to 2019. I cannot believe that the loss of a child, no matter how young or old, was any less traumatic than it is today, just because it happened more often, and especially in families at the lower-end of the earnings spectrum. How hard must that have been... to carry nineteen children to term, or nearly, and then find that only half survived childhood. How fearful each pregnancy must have been... and how precious and loved, every one those remaining children.

It seemed important to find all of their names, and say them out loud. Not all were baptised, not all were registered, and there is still one birth and three deaths missing (Ada died long after the 1911 census), but I found eighteen of the nineteen children born to Walter and Elizabeth within those first twenty-four years of marriage:
  • Walter H Bennett, born 1884
  • James Bennett, born 1885
  • Harry Bennett, born 1886
  • John Bennett, born 1889
  • Elizabeth Harriet Bennett, born 1890, died before 1901
  • Florence Bennett, born and died in 1891
  • Elizabeth Bennett, born in 1892, died in 1893
  • Emily Bennett, born in 1894
  • Grace Bennett, born in 1895
  • Florence Bennett, born in 1897
  • William Bennett, born in 1898, died before 1901
  • Ada Bennett, born in 1899, died in 1916
  • Cyril Bennett, born in 1900
  • Ernest Bennett, born in 1901
  • Mary Bennett, born in 1903
  • Evelyn Harold Bennett, born in 1908, died in 1977 (yay!!!)
  • Leonard Walker Bennett, born in 1909, died before 1911
  • Edith Evelyn Bennett, born in 1910.
The "missing" baby Bennett, to make up to 19 the babies born before April, 1911, most likely came in 1887 or 1888, between Harry and John. All the births appear to be single pregnancies--there is nothing to suggest any multiple births. I haven't tracked down all the deaths nor their causes... you can see from the two Elizabeths that they were not stillbirths or days old, but months or years. Little people.

Anyone who thinks that maternal or infant health care is not important, read this. Anyone who thinks that family planning and the availability of contraception is not important, read this. Because no family should have to lose that much.

And... that woman deserves a medal! She on lived to the (relatively) good old age of 65. I don't think there were any more children born after Edith Evelyn in 1910, but you never know... Walter, he lived to be 75 years old. I hope all the surviving children looked after them both in their later years.