Sister Act

Bonsall Lodge viewed from Holly Finnis via Bonsall History

After establishing that Sarah Jane BATES (aka Sally) was a daughter of Hannah Bates, I wanted to know more about her.

The 1939 census gave her birth year as 1872 and so Sarah Jane Bates was easily found in the 1881 census staying as the niece of Edwin Wright in Holly Finnis, Bonsall – but was this our girl?  Could Edwin’s wife, Ann be Hannah BATES’ elusive sister, Ann BATES? I needed more evidence to link the two families.

1881 Census – Bonsall

Searching for an Ann Wright brought up her second marriage to an Ebenezer BANNER in 1886. This excited me as Hannah had used the name ‘Ann Banner‘ when she married William Henry LAMB but I’ve never known why. However, even though this bride’s father is also named as James Bates (same as Hannah), there was still a chance it could all be coincidence.

1886 marriage of Ann Wright (nee Bates) to Ebenezer Banner

And then I found Ann’s first marriage record…

1872 marriage of Ann Bates to Edward Wright

Bing, bang, boom!

Witnesses: Alexander Rollett and Hannah Rollett (!!)

This is the proof I need that the 1881 census record is Sarah Jane and the Ann in all these records is Hannah’s sister Ann BATES. [I believe Edward was misrecorded as Edwin in the 1881 census – ‘his mark’ indicates he could likely neither read nor write so wouldn’t know to correct the census taker.] Interestingly, Hannah was also living on Duke Street (number 51) when she married Alexander a few months earlier – perhaps both girls had been living with their mother. (They appear to be with her in the 1871 census taken the year before their marriages.)

Divorce at the time was rare and limited almost exclusively to the rich. My presumption is that when Ann’s second husband, Ebenezer died in 1891, Hannah saw her chance and married William by using her sister’s name a few months later. If anyone was suspicious, records would show that ‘Ann Banner’ was in fact a widow and legally able to marry.  I have no idea if Ann consented to this or not. Of course there is the possibility William did actually marry Hannah’s sister for some reason but there is a lot more evidence proving the relationship between William and Hannah.

Next Steps:

  • Confirm Hannah, Ann and their mother’s 1861 and 1871 censuses
  • Search newspapers for Ann and her husbands
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Aunt Sally

Before Rose Richards [nee LAMB] died, we were chatting about her family history via facebook messenger and she wrote:

“… my Dad had a sister we called Sally. She married a man named Woodward who left her and went to America. During the war an American soldier had a piece in the Derby Evening telegraph asking for her, But my Dad wouldn’t let us answer it.”

Rose Richards [nee Lamb], 2 Aug 2016

I dutifully added the name Sally Lamb to the family tree as a brother of Reuben Henry LAMB (son of Hannah BATES and William Henry LAMB) but was unable to find the newspaper piece Rose refers to.

At a later point, likely trawling the newspapers for Rolletts, I came across an article requesting William Woodward come forward, or else his now deceased legal wife’s estate would be given to her brother John William Rollett:

Derby Daily Telegraph, 12 May 1947 p10

“TO WILLIAM WOODWARD formerly of Derby… and Birmingham… but whose present whereabouts is unknown.
TAKE NOTICE that a Citation has issued citing you to cause an appearance to be entered for you in the Principal Probate Registry… within one month after publication hereof and accept or refuse Letters of Administration of the estate of SARAH JANE WOODWARD, of 53, Gisborne-street, Derby, in the County of Derby, deceased, or shew cause why the same should not be granted JOHN WILLIAM ROLLETT as a lawful brother of the whole blood of the said deceased and one of the persons interested in her estate, with an intimation that in default of your appearance Letters of Administration will be granted to the said JOHN WILLIAM ROLLETT.”

Derby Daily Telegraph, 12 May 1947, p10

This showed that Sally, officially known as Sarah Jane was actually a child of Hannah BATES’ first husband, Alexander ROLLETT. Until then, I had only known him to have two sons – John William and William Henry. But since John was referred to as ‘a lawful brother of the whole blood’, I adjusted the tree and changed her maiden name to Sarah Jane ROLLETT, daughter of Alexander.

Unfortunately, this still didn’t help me in my quest for information. The closest I got was Sarah’s likely appearance in the 1939 register, where she was recorded as a widow and retired ‘rag sorter’.

Sarah Jane Woodward in the 1939 register

Today, however, I came across her long lost husband in an ancestry member tree. This tree gave her name as Sarah Jane BATES (her mother’s maiden name) and also shared a copy of the marriage certificate which shows the two had married in Birmingham in 1891.

The 1891 marriage of Sarah Jane BATES to William WOODWARD

Interestingly, Sally does not give her father’s name so it is still uncertain whether Alexander truly is her biological father. It is unlikely that her birth record would have his name either, since she is registered under her mother’s maiden name but I’d still like to order it one day to check. The fact that Sarah Jane was never recorded with her family intrigues me – perhaps she wasn’t actually Rollett’s child either?

It turns out that William had actually formed a relationship with his barmaid, Alice Robinson around 1907 (William & Sally ran a pub in Aston – noted on the 1901 census) and had a couple of kids with her before migrating to Canada around 1910, where they lived as a married couple and continued to grow their family.

As for the newspaper piece Rose mentioned, according to William’s family he returned to England for a few years at the beginning of the war so it’s possible William did try to reach out to his former wife at that time (for whatever reason).

It’s so amazing to actually find answers to these little mysteries and especially from another perspective. In addition, the search for Sally allowed me to unlock more doors into the intriguing life of Hannah Bates…

Update:

Due to the above article, I had assumed Sally died in 1947 but the only likely death record in the index was in 1941. I have now found the probate record that states she did die in 1941 but probate wasn’t granted until 1947. Presumably, time had to be given to locate her missing husband, William before it being passed on to her brother(?).

Next Steps:

  • order Sarah Jane BATES’ birth certificate
  • locate newspaper article mentioned by Rose

And that’s where things have stayed for a long while. I was unable even to find a likely marriage between the two. But today, all that changed when I came across an ancestry member tree, which finally blew the doors open on this couple. More importantly, the discovery has helped me unlock even more doors.

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The Hannah Chronicles – Shocking Immorality

1880 – Shocking Immorality -Sheffield Independent 05 March 1880, p4 col2

In 1880, Hannah and her husband Alexander ROLLETT made the papers again with regards to their ‘shocking immorality’. According to the articles, Hannah had taken up with Henry Banks, who happened to also be married. Selina Banks, in turn took up with Alexander – in some kind of ‘wife swap’ scenario.  Hannah went round ‘to fetch her child’ (how long the child had been with his father is unclear) and an argument ensued during which Hannah attacked Selina with a fire fender.

SHOCKING IMMORALITY. -At the Derby Police Court, yesterday, Selina Banks was summoned for assaulting Hannah Rollett. – The complainant’s husband, it appears, lives with the defendant, and Mrs. Rollett formerly lived with defendant’s husband. Complainant went to defendant’s house on Sunday to fetch her child, and defendant assaulted her with the fender. – The Bench convicted the prisoner, and the Chairman (Ald. Turner) described the revelations that had been made as shocking in the extreme. A fine of 5s. and costs would be inflicted.

1880 – marriage laws – Derby Mercury 10 March 1880, p2 col6

THE MARRIAGE LAWS.-Selina Banks was charged by Hannah Rollett with assaulting her. -The complainant’s husband has left her, and lives with the defendant. Complainant went to the house where the pair live, saying that she had come for her child. A row ensued, and the assault took place. -Defendant, in her defence, said that the complainant had been unduly intimate with her husband, and had caused her to be separated from him. She therefore went to live with Mrs. Rollett’s husband. -Mr. Turner (who had taken the chair in the absence of Mr. Bailey) said the case had revealed a most disreputable and immoral condition of affairs. Defendant would be fined 5s. and costs, or seven days’ hard labour.

Alexander was still living with Selina at the time of the 1881 census (April) – also with them were his son William, and Selina’s son Joseph (both 6 years old). Perhaps William was the child referred to in the articles?  Either way, the incident seems to have marked the end of Hannah and Alexander’s marriage despite being unable to officially divorce.

Interesting note: a few months after the 1881 census was taken, Alexander was found ‘drunk and riotous’ in Rivers Street.  He claimed to have been “off his beer” for two years before having a tipple at his sister’s wedding. The sister would have been Sarah Ann Rollett whom Hannah had attacked a few years previous.

Derby Daily Telegraph 16 August 1881, p3 col3

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Certified Muddle

Came across something interesting today…

Leah Yeomans birth date on the 1939 register is listed as 5 Jan 1896. However, on her official birth certificate, the year of birth is recorded as 1897. Since you would imagine a birth certificate to be more accurate, I’ve always recorded her year of birth as 1897. But as I was going through the records again, I wondered which was more accurate. Human error needs to be considered in both cases here.

Leah Yeomans in the 1939 register – recorded under her married name, Lamb
Certified Copy of Leah Yeomans’ birth entry

It was only minutes later that I came across another example within the same family.

The marriage certificate of Leah Yeomans’ parents lists their year of marriage as 1874.
Today, I found an image of the original marriage entry from the parish records that shows the year may actually be 1875.

Certified copy of James Yeomans & Mary Johnson’s marriage entry
Original image of James Yeomans & Mary Johnson’s marriage entry

In this case, the confusion stems from the year in the title being 1875 and the year within the entry as 1874. The other 3 entries on the image all have the same anomaly (both being recorded as 1875 and 1874). Fortunately I was able to see the previous & following pages and it seems to be an error only on this particular page – the title year should actually read 1874.

My decision is to record Leah Yeomans birth year as 1897 (since the year is repeated 3 times within the entry, it’s less likely to be a mistake) and her parents’ marriage as 1874.

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The Will of James Findlay

 

Port Henry Harbour (via The Buchan Heritage Society)

James Findlay and his wife, Helen Buchan were living at 29 Port Henry Road in April of 1881 with 6 of their 8 children (Jane Ann & Agnes appear to be in service at this time). James was a boat builder and ship carpenter and they had been married for 20 years.

The Findlay family in 1881

Sadly, only a few years later,  both James and Helen were dead. Helen died of dropsy in 1885 and the following year James died of pernicious anaemia, leaving behind their young family.

Approximate age of James Findlay’s children at the time of his death:

  • James 23
  • Jane Ann 21
  • Agnes 20
  • Margaret 17
  • William 14
  • Arthur 10
  • John 8
  • Helen 6

(note: Another daughter named Helen (b.1870) died before 1880)

James’ estate was only valued as a total of £18 14s (equivalent to roughly £1500 in today’s money) but he also owned the house on Port Henry Rd* where the family lived.

Extract Inventory of James Findlay

 

On the surface, there wasn’t a lot of genealogical information in these documents (the only relative named was his son), yet it still managed to indicate the care he had for his family.

1886 Will of James Findlay (img 690)

 

…(First) My said Trustees and their foresaids shall as soon as convenient assign convey and deliver to my son James Findlay Junior Fisherman Port Henry Road Peterhead the whole of my moveable estate in consideration of which the said James Findlay Junior shall be bound to pay my debts and funeral expenses including sums due to my children for money lent to me (Second) My said Trustees and their foresaids shall allow the said James Findlay Junior to occupy free of rent with power of subletting my house in Port Henry Road on condition that the said James Findlay Junior shall (in the first place) maintain such of my children as are under the age of seventeen years until the said children or the survivors of them individually reach the age of seventeen years or give such assistance as said children require for their maintenance in addition to their own earnings Declaring that I wish my children to understand that my desire is that they shall as soon as possible do what they can to maintain themselves Declaring further that the said James Findlay Junior shall not be bound to maintain or assist in maintaining any of said children unless they are content to live in family with him in his house and (in the second place) provide a free lodging in said house for such of my daughters as are unmarried though above the age of seventeen during such time as said unmarried daughters have no other home open to them but [beyond] the simple shelter of his house the said James Findlay Junior shall not be bound to maintain or assist in maintaining any daughter beyond the age of seventeen.  This provision in favor of unmarried daughters shall cease to be binding when as hereinafter provided my house is conveyed to the said James Findlay Junior in absolute property or is sold Declaring that the said James Junior shall not be bound to perform any of the above conditions in favor of my children and unmarried daughters unless said children and unmarried daughters conduct themselves properly and to the satisfaction of my said Trustees and their foresaids (Third) When my youngest child then alive attains the age of seventeen years if the said James Junior is alive and has fulfilled the above conditions of maintaining my younger children and providing a lodging for my unmarried daughters my said Trustees or their foresaids shall convey my said house to the said James Findlay Junior as his absolute property…

Basically, James willed that his eldest son James Jr would inherit his estate and take ownership of the house, as long as he continued to provide for the younger children until they were 17 years of age and behaved themselves (but desired that they try to maintain themselves as soon as possible). He also hoped that James Jr would allow his unmarried sisters above the age of 17 to lodge rent free in the family home if needed, but wasn’t bound to support them outside this. James Jr appeared to have honoured his father’s wishes.

On the 1891 census, Arthur & John were recorded still with him on the 1891 census. Margaret was boarding with sister, Jane Ann in Almanythie Lane (2 streets over) and the youngest, Helen, was recorded with older sister Agnes in Port Henry Lane (a lane connecting Longate to the harbour – since demolished).  I have as yet been unable to locate William.

Arthur and John living with James Findlay Jr in Port Henry Road 1891

Helen living with sister Agnes in Port Henry Lane 1891

Margaret living with sister Jane Ann in 1891

 

Map of Peterhead c.1900 showing Port Henry Road & Almanythie Road

Interestingly one of the named executors refused the role.  John Suttar was a long established local merchant who “carried on an extensive trade with the fishing community” [Aberdeen People’s Journal 15 December 1906 p9] and John Gilchrist Mitchell was a fish curer whose son was the solicitor named in the will, Henry Benjamin Gilchrist. Both were clearly acquainted with James and may have even been close friends but as Suttar declined it’s unclear.

*house number seems to change but still refer to same address

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