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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