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Luella Laughton Goold was born on 1 September 1879 in Lebanon, Grafton County, New Hampshire, the second known child born to Pierce William Goold and Alice E. (Hill) Goold. In a family of eight known children, seven of them were daughters. Luella’s father’s family had emigrated from Ireland by way of Liverpool in 1861, very shortly after the American Civil War broke out; I have trouble believing that anyone would willingly emigrate to a country being ravaged by war unless they were desperate to escape their current situation, but perhaps they – like many Americans in the Northern U. S. at the time – believed the war would be over quickly.

Luella was born in the aftermath of the American Civil War, a period in American history when families and individuals were very easily uprooted. In 1880 the family was still living in Lebanon, New Hampshire, but by 1892 the family had made a drastic move, to Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington, where she was enumerated on the state census as Lulie, perhaps a childhood nickname. The Goolds shortly returned to New Hampshire, where Luella’s parents buried two of her sisters.

By 1900 the Goolds had moved again, to Hartford, Windsor County, Connecticut, and 20-year-old Luella had started working as a nurse. By 1910 Luella had moved out on her own, lodging in Manhattan and still working as a nurse. By 1920 Luella had moved to Arlington, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, where she was working as a nurse – with the intriguing specification of “experimental work” – and her widowed Irish-born father Pierce William Goold was living with her, occupation listed as “Retired,” with extra income coming from boarding a Swedish emigre who was working as a carpenter. The family was living at 70 Paul Revere Road, a road likely named after the historic ride through their town, a town which had been known as Menotomy in 1775. Luella had apparently done well for herself financially as a single nurse, as she owned the home in which she, her father, and her boarder were living.

Luella’s life was shortly to take a dramatic turn. On 18 February 1924, while she was still living at 70 Paul Revere Road in Arlington, Massachusetts, Luella was issued an American passport. Her application reported that in the intervening time, her father had moved back to Tacoma, Washington. Quite contrary to her census enumerations, her passport application reported her occupation as “housewife.” She said she was intending to leave on the Pittsburgh from the port of New York on April 1st and visit France, Great Britain, and Switzerland for “Study & Travel.” The application includes a photo; while the copy I have viewed is from microfilm and thus not the greatest rendering, it is the only photo I have seen of Luella.

Luella Laughton Goold passport photo

Luella Laughton Goold in her 1924 passport photo, U.S. passport application #372144. (Scan courtesy of Ancestry, whose source was a National Archives and Records Administration [NARA] microfilm.)

At the time, passport applicants typically had a witness provide testimony supporting that they were who they said they were. Luella’s witness was James T. Greeley, a physician living in Nashua, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, who said he had known Luella for 15 years. While Nashua is not as far away as Tacoma, it is not adjacent to Arlington.

This witness James T. Greeley was James Thornton Greeley, born during the American Civil War in Nashua, New Hampshire, on 18 July 1862 to James Bonaparte Greeley and Arabella (Wood) Greeley. James Thornton Greeley’s grandparents apparently had high aspirations for their children: Bonaparte was likely an allusion to Napoleon, and Arabella (also spelled Arbella) was the name of the flagship in the Winthrop Fleet that had settled New Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the ship having been named after their noble passenger Lady Arabella Johnson (also spelled Lady Arbella). The elder James was also a physician, and on 3 November 1861 he had enlisted in the Calvary branch of the Union Army, starting out with the rank of Assistant Surgeon. Intriguingly, though he enlisted in Nashua, he served for the state of Rhode Island. When he enlisted, he left behind his wife and their toddler, and Arabella was pregnant with the younger James. The elder James was promoted to Full Surgeon on 4 June 1862, but it appears tragedy shortly befell him, as he was mustered out soon thereafter on 31 August 1862 and awarded an invalid pension while the Civil War continued to rage. (I have not yet viewed his compiled military service file nor his and Arabella’s pension records.)

By the 1870 census, the Greeley family was living in Merrimack, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, and there were now three sons in the family. By 1880 they had moved back to nearby Nashua, where they were living on Main Street, with another Greeley family enumerated next door. As the sons of a physician, all three Greeley sons were still in school, even the eldest at age 20.

According to the Directory of Deceased Physicians, the younger James attended Dartmouth College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and then attended Baltimore Medical College in Baltimore, Maryland, graduating from the latter in 1891. In 1893 James and his brother Guy Greeley both became Fellows of the New Hampshire Medical Society.

On 9 October 1895, James Thornton Greeley married Florence Haile Richardson in Nashua and they settled in Nashua. In 1897, New Hampshire granted a medical license to James. The date he was licensed had more to do with the increasing regulation of American doctors than with James’s personal career. As an endnote in “The Early Development of Medical Licensing Laws in the United States, 1875-1900″ by Ronald Hamoway notes (p. 117) [link goes to PDF], “In 1897, a new statute was enacted [in New Hampshire] creating three boards of examiners, regular, homeopathic, and eclectic, with both a diploma and examination mandatory. In 1915, the three boards were abolished and one board substituted for them.” There appears to be more detail on the history of licensing in “The History of Medical Licensure” in a 1935 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), but as a non-subscriber, I can only view the first page.

James and Florence went on to have at least four children, three of whom survived to adulthood: Margaret, James, and Cyrus. As a successful physician and his family members, James, Florence, and their children got to experience things not open to the “average” American of the time, including traveling abroad. Their first known child, Margaret, was born in 1900, and in 1901 James applied for a passport for himself, Florence, and infant Margaret. Why were they traveling abroad when she was so young? The passport application does not say, and so far I have not figured out where they travelled. In the summer of 1910 Florence applied for a passport for herself and her older children, Margaret (then 10) and James (then 8). At the time passports did not ask for specifics on where the person(s) intended to travel, just how long, and Florence said they intended to return within two years, as James had before them. I also have yet to figure out where the three of them travelled.

The United States entered World War I in 1917, and in 1918 James applied for another passport, this time to go into medical service with the American Red Cross. He was 56 years old when his application was approved. His passport specified that he was planning to go to “England Great Britain” and “France.” The American Red Cross did a tremendous amount of volunteer medical work in France and also some in the UK, the latter mostly with wounded American troops. The linked publication on the American Red Cross’s World War I activities (published in 1919) notes of their work in France, “As an indication of the ability to meet emergencies, a complete 1,000 bed hospital was made ready in forty[-]eight hours.” James sailed from Montréal on the Llanstephan Castle, arriving in Bristol, England, on 3 November 1918 as part of a large group of American Red Cross volunteers.

In December 1922 their daughter Margaret applied for a passport of her own, stating that she was a never-married art student who intended to go to Tunis, Italy, and France via “an early boat” leaving “on or about January 30, 1923.” Margaret’s supporting witness was her mother Florence. Margaret said on her application that she was planning to leave from New York or Boston; I have yet to find her on a ship list, though I don’t know where she was planning to visit first. Florence died on 8 February 1923. Florence’s death record says she died of “Lobar Pneumonia,” which she’d reportedly had for 8 days; had Margaret sailed on a ship just before her mother’s acute illness began as Margaret had planned to do?

Margaret Thornton Greeley passport application photo

Margaret Thornton Greeley in her passport application photo; while this photo’s scan from microfilm is worse than Luella’s, it is definitely not the worst I have seen. From U.S. passport application #238615. (Scan courtesy of Ancestry, whose source was a NARA microfilm.)

In 1924 James Thornton Greeley applied for yet another passport. He reported that he was planning to leave on the “Pittsburg” [sic] from the port of New York on April 1st and visit France, England, and Switzerland to “Visiting relatives and study.” Does the previous sentence sound familiar? That’s because it was almost identical to Luella’s plan, although she apparently didn’t have any relatives in Europe to visit, as she had said her purpose was “Study & Travel.” James submitted a previous passport in lieu of a witness, and his new passport was issued 11 days after Luella’s, on Leap Day, February 29th.

On April 8th, the Orca reached Southampton, England, with both Luella and James on board. While they sailed on a different ship than the planned Pittsburgh, it appears they sailed on approximately April 1st. Both of them listed London addresses for their contact information in England. On April 26th, Luella and James married at 15 Henrietta Street in Covent Garden, London. They had resided in London long enough to satisfy the Registrar who married them in front of the American Vice-Counsul of London, as they were both listed as “of London” on their marriage record. Had they headed to Europe with the plan to marry in London, or had they headed to Europe as friends and decided to marry en route? The Vice-Council reported their marriage to the U.S. State Department on May 14th, and in an accompanying letter from May 15th, the American Consul General reported that he had amended Luella’s passport to the surname Greeley.

Also on May 15th, James and Luella passed through Liverpool on the Carmania. Luella was recorded as Lucille Greeley. The ship list contact information column showed them both as “In transit from PARIS.” They were heading for Quebec, and on May 22nd the Carmania arrived there, “Lucille”‘s residence in the United States now listed as Nashua.

On August 29th, Margaret sailed into the port of New York on the Berengaria, having sailed from Cherbourg, France, on the 23rd. Lucy Kate Bowers, also from Nashua and also born in 1900, was with her. While Margaret and Lucy were travelling in Europe, had they gone to London to celebrate James and Luella’s wedding? So far, I don’t know.

On 29 August 1929, James died of a coronary embolism in Nashua. James and Luella had celebrated their five-year anniversary that April. The Greeley children were now technically orphans. James’s youngest child, Cyrus, was enumerated on the 1930 U.S. federal census with Luella. By this point Cyrus had begun slightly shaving his age, which would continue the rest of his life; he was enumerated on the 1910 census, yet as a young adult listed his age as slightly younger than someone who would have appeared on it. Cyrus attended the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, where he was a baritone in the University Men’s Glee Club and part of the cast for the university’s February 1932 staging of Euripedes’s Electra. In the 1930′s he was listed in Seattle city directories as well as at Luella’s address in Nashua city directories, so he apparently still lived with her when school was out of session. On 25 April 1938, Cyrus died in Seattle.

Luella outlived her husband James by nearly 44 years, dying in Lacey, Thurston County, Washington, on 6 May 1973, at age 93. One of Luella’s sisters died in Thurston County a few years later, so perhaps they lived together when they were elderly.

Luella’s other stepson, James, worked as a teacher and married a woman named Helen. James died in Florida in 1988. So far, Margaret’s return to New York with Lucy, both Nashua-bound, is the last record I have found for her. It seems most likely that she disappears from records because she married after she returned, but if so, I have yet to find a record of the wedding.

The way we later write things in genealogical and historical research is often different than the order in which we discover them. The first record I found connecting Luella and James was the record of their marriage. Unspooling their story was great fun. I hope you enjoyed reading it even half as much as I enjoyed researching it and sharing it here.

Roco and Sue lived in Springfield, which was in Massachusetts Bay Colony and then in Massachusetts Colony, where they were slaves of John Pynchon, the magistrate who made an appearance in my 52 Ancestors post on Sarah (Bridgman) Lyman. John Pynchon died with the largest estate of its time in Western Massachusetts, and like many wealthy European colonists of his day, he owned slaves. Like later work on the enslaved in Southern states, most of what can be gleaned about slaves in early Massachusetts has to be pieced together from the records of whites. Roco was owned by John Pynchon by 1672, when Roco and fellow Pynchon slave Harry were two of the people working on building the first sawmill in Suffield, a town a short distance downriver from Springfield. According to Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts, 1650-1865, 2nd edition (p. 2), Roco was a very unusual slave in owning at least 60 acres of land by 1685 though still a slave; there is no citation listed, so I am not sure yet what the source was. So far I haven’t found a reference in the deeds, but many deeds in what was then Hampshire County were recorded belatedly in this time period, so that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t one.

On 1 December 1687 John Pynchon noted in the Record of the County Court of Hampshire, “Roco and Sue my Negroes, Joined in Marriage.” Roco and Sue subsequently bought their freedom from John Pynchon on 20 October 1695:

Agreed with Roco Negroe . . . That for his & his wifes freedoms which is to be absolute upon his paying to me as followeth which is to say He is to pvide & allow or pay me Twenty five Barrels of good cleane pure Turpentine of 40 gallons to a Barrel & Twenty one barrels of Good merchantable Tarr: where of he is to pay wt he can next yeare by this time 12 Mo & I give him for the Rest the yeare after so that within Two yeares he is to pay the whole & he is Intirely discharged from me upon the reading of this . . .

Richard Blackleech, a free man of color who was a former slave of John Pynchon, witnessed the document.

Sue died in Springfield, recorded as “Su the negro,” on 24 January 1710/11. So far I have not been able to determine when or where Roco died and as far as I have reviewed, no one else seems to have located a death record for him either.

Sue's death in Springfield

Sue’s death is the middle entry here: “Su the negro was sicke & died. Jan: 24. 1710/11″ (Scan courtesy of FamilySearch.)

A “Negro” named Roco had been examined by John Pynchon in private and then at the County Court in 1680 regarding a charge of fornication with a white woman, Margarite Riley of Springfield, and Roco is recorded as having said “that he had (upon the said Riley’s tempting him) the carnal knowledge of her body,” and the court sentenced him to pay a fine of three pounds or receive fifteen lashes. Margarite was sentenced to receive fifteen lashes herself, apparently at least partly as a deterrent to herself and others regarding “this Growing and provoking sin of whoredom and to restrain the like abhorend practices.” I am unclear whether this is the same Roco who subsequently married Sue, and as far as I have been able to find, no one else seems to know for sure either. Margarite had had a daughter “born out of wedlocke” shortly before her court appearance, on 6 July 1680; Margarite had been born in Springfield in February 1661/62, making her 18 when her daughter was born. Was the Roco who was brought before the court the child’s father? Nothing I’ve reviewed, from either then or now, even speculates as to this, so I don’t know. But regardless of whether Roco was the father, perhaps this event was part of why the court seemed to have so little patience with Margarite’s behavior.

Margarite Riley's daughter's birth record in Springfield

Margarite Riley’s daughter’s birth record was squeezed in between the birth records of two children born to married couples in Springfield: “Margarite Riley had a daughter born out of wedlocke July, 6th 1680″ (Scan courtesy of FamilySearch.)

Everyone I have featured till now in my 52 Ancestors posts was a relative of mine; however, here my relative is the slave-owner, John Pynchon. Given the typical practices of New England slavery, Roco and Sue would have regularly interacted with whites in the Pynchon household while they were slaves. I think it is important for researchers to remember that many people in the North had slaves too. I also want to stress here that though this may seem like a short post for my 52 Ancestors posts, I chose Roco and Sue primarily because there is a lot more known about them than many other slaves in this time and place. As an example, as far as I have been able to determine, no one seems to even be sure of the given name of one of the slaves that John Pynchon owned when he died.

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NOTES

All the books listed below include at least one mention of both Roco and Sue.

The most invaluable book for understanding slavery in this area is Slavery in the Connecticut Valley of Massachusetts by Robert H. Romer (Florence, Massachusetts: Levellers Press, 2009).

For those researching families of color in Hampden County, Massachusetts, a fantastic resource is Black Families in Hampden County, Massachusetts, 1650-1865 by Joseph Carvalho III, who published a second edition of the book in 2011 through the New England Historic Genealogical Society. This book includes families in colonial Springfield. I do want to stress checking the compiled information in this book against original records whenever possible.

As I mentioned in my post on Sarah (Bridgman) Lyman, an important work for anyone researching early western Massachusetts is Colonial Justice in Western Massachusetts (1639-1703): The Pynchon Court Record, edited with a legal and historical introduction by Joseph H. Smith (USA: The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation at Harvard University Press, 1961). The book is a mix of transcriptions, analysis, and information about the various legal procedures used at the time, and includes cases regarding both slaves and free people of color.

A second book on the voluminous records left by John Pynchon is The Pynchon Papers, Volume 2: Selections from the Account Books of John Pynchon, 1651-1697, edited by Carl Bridenbaugh and Juliette Tomlinson (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts in association with the University of Virginia Press, 1985). The account books of John Pynchon and his father William Pynchon were microfilmed and a few repositories in western Massachusetts have copies, but they are not available for inter-library loan, making this book a more realistic way for most people to access the information in John Pynchon’s account books.

On Friday (February 28th) I visited Boston City Archives for the first time. I had wanted to visit since I attended a talk on the Archives by archivist Marta Crilly last year at the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Conference, which was held in Boston. I typed my notes from that lecture up in my post on IAJGS 2013 Day 2. At the talk, Marta had stressed booking an appointment in advance and, if at all possible, coming by car rather than by public transit. I called a few days in advance and booked an appointment for Friday. Marta was the one who answered the phone, and asked what I would be researching. She told me she would pull the first thing in advance of my arrival. I mentioned that I would be coming with a friend to make sure that this would be OK, and she said to stress to my friend that they are a nearly exclusively pull facility so my friend should bring along specifics if she wanted to research something in their records.

Boston City Archives is located in West Roxbury, a neighborhood of Roxbury, which was formerly an independent town and is now part of the City of Boston. The Archives is located near the border with Brookline. The parking lot is wide in front of the building, and there were signs posted around most of the lot saying the parking was for city employees, so we parked near the other end from the entrance. Someone walking in the parking lot confirmed that the entrance where we could access the Archives was where we were guessing it was. There is a ramp leading up to the entrance in addition to a small set of stairs; there are also three handicapped parking spaces, the closest parking spaces to the entrance, and these spaces were all empty while we were there. When you enter the building, the door to the Archives Reading Room will be on your right. There is a desk at the front of the Reading Room where there is usually a staff member seated.

The exterior of Boston City Archives

The exterior of Boston City Archives, as seen from the parking lot when we were leaving in the late afternoon. The entrance is in the grey boxy bit on the left. There are also a couple of other city offices through the same entrance, including the City Archaeology Lab. (All photos in this post were taken by the author.)

When we arrived, there was one researcher sitting at one of the two tables nearest the desk looking through records, and Marta said the other table nearest the desk was for us. The rest of the tables in the fairly large Reading Room were covered with items from the Boston Marathon bombing victims’ memorial, and there were a number of people moving around the Reading Room working on cataloging these items. There are lockers behind the desk and we were asked to stow most of what we had brought with us in them; we were allowed to keep pencils, papers, and cameras/cellphones. There are extra pencils in case someone didn’t bring one along or brought one that broke on-site. Marta had said on the phone that she would pull a register book for me before I arrived, and it was waiting for us. There were also two pieces of foam that she requested I use to prop up the books to help protect them. She sat with us for a bit listening to the other things we wanted to research and taking notes, and then left to pull more records.

The pull cart at Boston City Archives

The pull cart at Boston City Archives. Since we usually asked for several things at a time to be pulled, it was left by our table while we researched and temporarily removed when new things were pulled.

I started my research doing work for a client, and had brought along a typed page of information on folks I am personally researching in Boston. Most of the information regarding my personal research did not lead to records, but I was able to do some personal research in tax records. Based on the street address I had brought with me, Marta pulled several tax books (pictured on the top shelf of the pull cart above), starting with the first year I was sure the person had lived at the address. The first year, the street address was not listed in the tax book, but a nearby address with two digits exchanged (1879 rather than 1897) was listed, and there was a dental practice at that address, so I thought that I may have mistyped the address and that my dentist research subject, early in his career at that point, may have been an apprentice at that practice at the time. However, Marta urged me to check a minimum of one more book before sending the records back. I’m glad I did, as the address 1897 was in the next year’s tax book and my dentist was listed at it. See photos of the record below. He was also in the next year’s tax book at the same address, while the following year – the year he had graduated from Harvard University’s Dental School – there were two other dentists listed at his apparently now-former address. I checked a couple more books, but after that the address was rented by a carpenter. I know he was still living in Boston at the time, so I will have to verify more addresses before I go back to research more. (See the captions for how to use street addresses with the tax books.)

Sample of tax records at Boston City Archives, page 1 of 2

Here is a sample of the old tax records at Boston City Archives, page 1 of 2 from the 1871 tax books. Willis Battles, shown here, is a relative of mine; the “1″ to the right of his name indicates that he paid the year’s poll tax. Most of the locations on this page were businesses, but in a city directory of this time period Willis was listed as living at the same address where he worked as a dentist. Men were subject to the poll tax and women weren’t, so Marta said that it is rare to find an occupant woman listed in the tax books. However, if a woman operated a shop at a separate address from where she lived, you should be able to look up the street address of the shop if you know it, even though the woman wouldn’t have been subject to the poll tax. The books are organized by street address. You look in the front of the book to see if the street of interest is in it, then search the listed street numbers for the page that contains the exact address. (Some streets are in more than one book.)

 Sample of tax records at Boston City Archives, page 2 of 2

Here is a sample of the old tax records at Boston City Archives, page 2 of 2 from the 1871 tax books. The people shown on this page are the property owners. The books are organized by street address, so if you know the address someone owned, you can look them up in the tax records regardless of whether they lived there. There were a number of woman property owners listed in the books I searched from the 1870′s and the books my friend searched from the 1910′s, so I think you are much more likely to find a woman property owner than a woman occupant in these records. To search the books, you look in the front of the book to see if the street of interest is in it, then search the listed street numbers for the page that contains the exact address. (Some streets are in more than one book.)

One of the ledgers I used was the most fire-damaged record I’ve ever personally used, and also had some water damage. I had to keep washing soot off my hands. See the photo below.

Ledger damaged by fire and water at Boston City Archives

This ledger damaged by fire and water is at Boston City Archives. Using it required much washing to remove soot from my hands, and it also left bits of soot all over the table.

Before we went to the Archives, my friend had found something with no known personal connection to her research that she thought sounded interesting in the Archives catalog, and after she finished researching she looked through it, a box of folders of loose papers of warnings-out from Charlestown, Massachusetts, in the 1700′s. Charlestown was once an independent town and is also now part of the City of Boston. For those of you that don’t know what warnings-out were, to oversimplify, here in New England they were a way to make sure that a town did not have to pay for someone who became indigent who was not a legal resident of the town by legally “warning them out” of the town. The system was similar to England’s Settlement Laws, though in New England being warned out simply meant the town was no longer financially liable for upkeep, not that the person(s) necessarily left the town. For those of you that want to read more, Josiah H. Benton wrote an entire book about it titled Warning Out in New England, published in 1911 and now scanned and freely available on multiple sites (I’ve linked to one).

A sample warning out from 1700s Charlestown at Boston City Archives

A sample warning out from 1700′s Charlestown, Massachusetts, at Boston City Archives. This record begins “In His Majesty’s name” and the date at the end includes “In the Twenty Second year of His Majesty’s Name,” the last word of which was probably supposed to be “Reign” rather than “Name.”

I’m glad I asked around till I found someone with a car who was both willing and able to go with me, as after going there I agree that it would be difficult to reach the Archives on public transit. I also want to stress that if you are going by car, it’s a good idea to bring GPS and/or a detailed map of the neighborhood. We only had written directions with us and discovered that there were many intersections without street signs which made it difficult to follow the written directions. After we realized we had started going in circles, we called the Archives and asked for directions from where we had pulled over.

Additional Tips:

  • Bring something to take digital photos! The Archives has a photocopier, but it is easier (and sometimes the only feasible way) to photograph items. You are allowed to photograph any record you view.
  • As Marta stressed at her lecture, call in advance and book an appointment. Have an idea of at least one thing you are going to be researching at the Archives before you call so that you will be able to provide details over the phone when you schedule your appointment.
  • If you know street addresses and/or wards, bring them along. Bring along as many street addresses and wards as you have, and include known dates for each one in your notes. If someone moved and/or their street address/ward changed without them moving, bring that information along as well, as it will make a significant difference. It is difficult to research in their old tax records without an exact street address, and probably impossible to research in their old voter records without a ward. While the Archives has some Ward maps as per my posted notes from Marta’s lecture, the maps do not cover as many years as the voting records do. The 1870 US federal census enumeration doesn’t typically include Wards in Boston, but the State Library of Massachusetts’s Massachusetts Real Estate Atlas Digitization Project has an 1874 atlas of Suffolk County (including Boston), which is earlier than the Archives Ward maps. If I had known there were no 1870′s Ward maps at the Archives and checked the 1874 atlas for wards in advance, I could have tried to look Willis up in the voting records while I was there.
  • If you plan to search the women’s early voting records (women were allowed to vote [only] in school elections in Massachusetts before federal women’s suffrage), plan to schedule a minimum of an entire day to only doing that. I asked about looking in them for my female personal research subjects and Marta said that because they are completely unindexed, they would probably take me a couple of weeks to thoroughly search. (Because I had other things to research that day, she didn’t pull them at all for me and I have yet to view any samples from that record set.)

Franklin Lyman Olds was born on 16 February 1810, the first child of Gideon and Elizabeth “Betsey” (Lyman) Olds of Jericho, Chittendon County, Vermont. His parents were both children of families who had moved up New England to colonial western Vermont. There is no known previous usage of the given name Franklin in his family and it is possible he was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin by his parents, whose fathers had both fought in the American Revolution. It was a given name that would carry on down the generations.

Franklin’s family had moved to Norwich, Windsor County, Vermont, on the eastern edge of the state, by 1830, when his mother Betsey died there and was buried in Norwich’s cemetery. Life for the family went on without Betsey. Franklin may have initially been involved in a Norwich-area company called Burton Olds & Co. On 3 October 1833 Franklin was amongst many citizens of Norwich to petition the Vermont legislature to create a law to prevent cattle from running at large, or as they put it:

We the undersigned would humbly represent to your Honorable body, that great difficulties and damages are incurred by the Farming interest in this State in consequence of the prevailing custom of turning cattle except Yearlings to run at large in the Highways during the Summer and Autumn. And as the laws of the State are considered insufficient to restrain such cattle from so running at large, We do therefore pray your Honorable body that an act may be passed effectually to produce such restraint . . .

In 1834 he was again one of many petitioners; this time they asked for the legislature to allow an educational facility that would become Norwich University.

Norwich was a small town, so Franklin could have met Lucy Blood at almost any activity or location around the mostly rural town. On 26 November 1835, Lucy and Franklin were married in Norwich by Samuel Goddard. Lucy’s mother had also died prior to their wedding, but both their fathers were still alive. To date I have been unable to locate them on the 1840 federal census, and since it only enumerates each head-of-household, the young couple may have been living with a relative.

Franklin opened a general store in Norwich with his brother Erastus William Olds. They were known as F L & E W Olds.

F L & E W Olds listed in the Merchants and Traders section of Waltons Vermont Register and Farmers Almanac for 1849

F L & E W Olds are listed in the “Merchants and Traders” section of the 1849 Walton’s Vermont Register and Farmers’ Almanac. I purchased this copy on eBay a few years ago.

Franklin was elected a Representative to Vermont’s General Assembly for 1856-57.

Franklin Olds elected for Windsor County

An article on election results (excerpted here) lists Franklin Olds as one of the Representatives from Windsor County. From the 14 September 1855 issue of the Vermont Watchman and State Journal of Montpelier, page 2. (Image courtesy of Chronicling America.)

Through a digitized Journal of the House of the State of Vermont, I know he filed a report as part of the Committee on State Prisons. He was also a Representative while the Vermont legislature was considering moving the capital of Vermont from Montpelier to Rutland, as shown in the newspaper excerpt below.

Franklin Olds mentioned in an article over the debate to move the Vermont state legislature from Montpelier to Rutland

Franklin Olds is mentioned in an article (an excerpt is shown here) over the debate to move the Vermont state legislature from Montpelier to Rutland. From the 27 February 1857 issue of the Vermont Watchman and State Journal of Montpelier, page 2. (Image courtesy of Chronicling America.)

As the general store in a small, mostly rural community, their fortunes boomed. On the 1850 census, Franklin was listed with real estate worth $570 and Erastus with real estate worth $1,000. By the 1860 federal census, Franklin was listed as having real estate worth $1,250 and “personal estate” worth $5,000. Younger brother Erastus’s real estate was a bit less expensive – still listed at $1,000, he was probably living in the same place as a decade prior – but Erastus was listed with the exact same personal estate as Franklin, $5,000. With personal estates together totaling $10,000, Franklin and Erastus made up the majority of the wealth on their census page, the entire total of personal estates only being $13,300.

As was common then amongst merchants and others who owned businesses that many people frequented, Franklin shortly became the postmaster of Norwich.

Franklin L. Olds in the postmasters register

The top entries in a page of the postmaster appointments register, the first entry being for Franklin L. Olds, who was appointed postmaster of Norwich on 20 June 1861 and served until around 1885 (the last number of the year Lewis Partridge was appointed is difficult to read due to the binding tape). The register also lists (not pictured here) that Erastus Olds became postmaster in 1889, after two others briefly served as postmasters. Seema Kenney retrieved this record for me from NARA, but the record set has since been added to Ancestry.com.

A storm was brewing in the divided nation, and the Civil War shortly broke out. As the war did not end in a few months as many in the Union thought, and then turned ever more bloody and expensive, the Union turned to new ways to fund the war and get soldiers to fight it. An increasing array of taxes were introduced and a draft was instituted. Too old to be drafted, Franklin and Erastus chose not to voluntarily enlist. But as merchants who were relatively wealthy for a small community, they were subject to a variety of taxes. They were taxed as “Retail Dealers” and individually taxed for the incomes from their business.

Franklin and Erastus Olds on IRS tax list for Vermont Division 7 of District 2 in 1863

Franklin and Erastus Olds were taxed as both a business and individuals in 1863. The business is listed as owning a horse and carriage, probably for the general store to be able to transport goods to those that could not take them home on their own. Franklin and Erastus were both also taxed for their individual incomes. They are shown in the middle of this excerpt from the 1863 Internal Revenue Service tax list for Vermont’s Division 7 of District 2. (Image courtesy of Ancestry.com; the record set is part of NARA’s holdings.)

After the war ended, the taxes initially continued as the Union side tried to recoup some of the financial devastation war had wrought on the federal government. An increasing number of items were taxed, and that’s how I know that Franklin’s household owned a piano. As head-of-household, Franklin was the one who was taxed for it, but since it was a musical instrument, I have no way of knowing which member(s) of the household actually played it. I’ve always found this interesting, as I always enjoy learning more about the day-to-day lives of the people I research, but have found it especially so since I recently began learning to play the piano myself. It is nice to imagine a household filled with music.

Franklin and Erastus Olds on IRS tax list for Vermont Division 7 of District 2 in May 1866

Franklin and Erastus Olds are again taxed as both a business and individuals. Franklin was taxed for a “Piano Forte” and Erastus for a “Gold Watch.” The carriage, formerly listed as joint property of F L & E W Olds, is now listed as Franklin’s property. They are shown in the middle of this excerpt from the May 1866 Internal Revenue Service tax list for Vermont’s Division 7 of District 2. (Image courtesy of Ancestry.com; the original record set is part of NARA’s holdings.)

On 8 November 1867, the Norwich Classical and English Boarding School was incorporated by the Vermont State Legislature, and it opened the following year. Franklin was on the Board of Trustees starting in 1868, listed with the honorific of “Esq.” (short for “Esquire”).  The school created a rather melodramatic advertisement about its wonderful staff, perfect building, idyllic location, and specialization in classical instruction. However, the school did not last very long, closing in 1877; this was apparently at least partially due to regular staff turnover.

In the 1870′s, the general store caught fire. Erastus and his wife, who lived above the store, were wakened by a daughter who had spotted the fire and escaped. The store was rebuilt, but according to a local history of the area, Erastus ran it on his own from that point forward. By this time Franklin was at least in his 60′s, but continued on as postmaster for several more years. Under a federal act of 3 March 1883, c. 142, (22 St. pp. 600, 602,), first to third class postmasters were allowed to put in claims for readjusted pay if they had been postmasters certain years. (See a partial quote of the act in this transcript of a Supreme Court case regarding it.) Judging by the Serial Sets, a large number of postmasters did; Franklin was one of them. It took a long time for the federal government to go through all the claims, and while many of them appear to have been rejected, Franklin’s was one of the ones eventually accepted (see 1886′s Serial Set Vol. 2401 [House Executive Document 225], p. 73). He received an additional $92.80 in pay for having served as Norwich’s postmaster in 1873 and 1874.

Just a handful of years after retiring as postmaster, Franklin died in his beloved Norwich, on 4 January 1890. His widow Lucy died nearly exactly four years later, on 27 January 1894, in Norwich.

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NOTES

Original copies of the petitions mentioned early in this blog post are held by the Vermont State Archives.

The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, has a collection of school-related materials. An online list of schools represented in their collection is over here.

The NARA-Waltham branch (in Massachusetts) contains the original volumes of the 1860′s IRS tax lists for Vermont.

Ancestry.com has an extensive collection of scanned printed school materials that (at least for me) generally do not show up in my regular searches. Only by going to the category for school materials do I generally get any hits. Materials pertaining to the Norwich Classical and English Boarding School are amongst its holdings.

Isobel Aitchison Honeyman was born in South Callenge, Ceres, Fife, Scotland, on 21 December 1883, the youngest known child of James Toddie Honeyman and Agnes (Pearson) Honeyman. Isobel was named after her paternal grandmother. James, who reported the birth, listed his residence as Portobello; at the time James and Agnes were living in the Portobello area of Edinburgh with their children, and Agnes’s parents were living in South Callenge, so Isobel was probably born at her maternal grandparents’ farm. Isobel’s father was a mechanical engineer specializing in paper mill machinery and he travelled a lot for work, but he reported that he was present at Isobel’s birth. Agnes and the children were living alone on some of the censuses as James travelled around the UK plying his engineering trade.

Isobel’s life appears to have started out ordinarily enough; she is listed as a scholar on the 1891 census. By 1900 the family had moved to 22 Parsons Green Terrace in the Canongate district of Edinburgh, and Agnes’s mother Catharine (Wilson) Philp Pearson died there that January. The following January Catharine’s much younger husband, David Pearson, died there as well. In April the family was enumerated as a full family unit for the only time: James, Agnes, and their four surviving children – Catharine Wilson Honeyman, William Pearson Honeyman, David Pearson Honeyman, and Isobel Aitchison Honeyman – were all enumerated at 22 Parsons Green Terrace. The children’s occupations are an interesting look at opportunities for young people at the turn of the last century in Edinburgh: Catharine was working as a dressmaker, William as a clerk, David as a porter, and 17-year-old Isobel had already begun her career as a “Costume-maker.”

The following year Isobel’s oldest siblings, Catharine and William, both married in Edinburgh and started families of their own. In 1911 Isobel and David were still living with James and Agnes. James, now 63, was still a practicing mechanical engineer, and David had found a career as a Blacksmith’s Striker. Isobel was now enumerated as  a Dressmaker, as Catharine had been a decade earlier, but I suspect Isobel was doing costume work whenever she could, and making dresses to help with her income. In 1913 the family was irrevocably altered by James’s death. The death record reveals that a cerebral embolism was his immediate cause of death, but that he had been ill for six months, though he seems to have still been working as a mechanical engineer, as he is not listed as retired. Isobel’s brother William had returned from Fife, as he reported the death and that he was present at it. In 1915 and 1920 Agnes was listed on the valuation rolls at 22 Parsons Green Terrace, and in 1930 Agnes died of acute bronchitis, still listed as residing at 22 Parsons Green Terrace. Again, William returned for a parent’s death and then reported it to the government.

Isobel seems to have continued her costume-related occupations, though I have yet to locate any records that directly name her between 1911 and 1932. On 16 July 1932, 48-year-old Isobel (reporting her age as 49) married 49-year-old Matthew Waterson Gilbert at 11 Royal Terrace in Edinburgh. Isobel is listed as a “Costume Fitter” and a Spinster. Matthew is listed as a “Motor Mechanic” and a widower. Isobel’s address is listed as the familiar 22 Parsons Green Terrace, and Matthew’s as 5 High Street in Portobello. Had Isobel been living with and caring for her widowed mother until Agnes had died two years before Isobel’s late marriage? The records I have reviewed to date are silent on the subject. Their marriage occurred late enough in their lives that only one of their parents, Matthew’s father John, was still living at the time. The minister of Abbey Church in Edinburgh officiated, and their witnesses were James P. Honeyman of 6 Jubilee Terrace, Markinch, Fife, and Frances Stephen of 14 Hamilton Place, Edinburgh. The James P. Honeyman in question was almost surely Isobel’s nephew James Pearson Honeyman, one of the sons of her brother William, as William had listed his own address as 6 Jubilee Terrace when he reported his mother’s death two years prior to the wedding.

Assuming that the street numbering remains the same from 1932 to today, the wedding’s site of 11 Royal Terrace was, and remains, the Adria House in Edinburgh’s New Town, a building which is nearly 200 years old and is now a small hotel. Their website does not indicate how long it has been a hotel, but it does say, “The cobbled Royal Terrace is the longest continuous terrace in the New Town. The houses are only built on one side of the street and there is a generous amount of open space with private gardens to the rear of the property and a treelined park at the front.”

Costume fitter is an occupation that continues to the present day. It is the person in a production (be it theater or film) who fits costumes and, if needed, tailors them. Isobel was part of a changing production scene; as the Victoria and Albert Museum’s site puts it, “The idea of visual unity and a production as a total concept was established in the early 1900s, and the director evolved to fuse the disparate elements – text, concept, performance, design, lighting – into a seamless whole.” The Victoria and Albert Museum states in their page “Designing Stage Costumes,” “The 20th century saw the emergence of the career designer, and then the setting up of training courses. But stage design is still an uncertain job and even today, designers often combine theatre work with a career as a painter or teacher.” Isobel entered the world of costume early enough in the 20th century and early enough in her life that she probably never took a training course and may have learned by, for example, initially working with a more experienced costumer.

Isobel’s late marriage could be at least partly attributed to caring for her mother if she was doing so, but it also speaks to a deficit of younger single men in the UK which began in Victorian times and was accelerated after World War I killed so many young British men. Isobel would have been prime 19th-century marrying age while World War I raged, and she turned 33 at the end of 1918. Many British women died elderly and still single in the 20th century.

Matthew has been more difficult to locate in records than a typical turn-of-the-20th-century Scot. On censuses he was reported to have been born in Cowdenbeath, Fife, around 1883, yet I have thus far been unable to locate a record of his birth anywhere in Scotland on ScotlandsPeople, despite his younger sisters’ births being registered in Midlothian after Matthew and his parents John and Jane (Waterson) Gilbert moved there from Fife. Though Matthew reports being a widower upon his marriage to Isobel, so far I have also been unable to locate any prior marriage(s) for him in Scotland, and wonder if perhaps he married in England. It is possible he is the “M. W. Gilbert” who was in the Royal Scots Fusiliers in World War I, not least because he would have been about the right age to be in the War, but so far I don’t have enough evidence to say for sure one way or the other.

Isobel died on 11 April 1952 of acute pneumonia at “Hospital for Women, Whitehouse Loan, Edinburgh (Usual residence 22 Parsons Green Terrace, Edinburgh).” Matthew survived her and reported her death. He died in 1967, too recently for his death record to be digitized; he would have been about 84 years old when he died. Isobel and Matthew lived through two World Wars – one apart, one together – and saw their country change a tremendous amount in their long lives. I often wonder if they enjoyed going to the theater and/or films together and discussing the costumes afterwards.

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NOTE

I have searched in a number of digitized newspapers and city directories, as well as the general web, for Isobel, so far without success. I would like to know what types of productions she worked on and more about her life as an adult. Hopefully someday I will successfully locate records that can tell me more. The options for a costumer in the early 20th century were very wide, from old-fashioned shows all the way to elaborate fantasies where the main point of the show was to show off the elaborate costumes, not to have a coherent production.

Thus far I have used my “52 Ancestors” posts to highlight people about whom I already know a lot. This week I want to take a look at someone whose origins remain a mystery. Elizabeth Fletcher lived in Chemung County, New York, which was carved from Tioga County, New York. Her town of residence was similarly carved: Horseheads was originally considered a part of Elmira, then carved out from Elmira into its own town, and the small village (in New York it’s technically a “hamlet”) where they lived, Breesport, has always been a subset of Horseheads. So Elizabeth lived in a subset of a second subset of a town. The earliest event I have for Elizabeth is her marriage to Charles Pierson Brees/Breese on 28 Feb 1829 in Veteran, Tioga County, New York, performed by Justice of the Peace Nathaniel Smith. Like Elmira, Veteran was in the part of Tioga County that would subsequently become Chemung County; Veteran was on the northern edge of the area that would become Chemung County, and the town from which it had been formed in 1823, Catharine, would become part of Schuyler County when the new counties were formed from Tioga County. All of this shows how important it is to know precisely where someone lived – always in my opinion but most especially in any area where boundaries changed over time.

Elizabeth and Charles had six sons. I know her maiden name because of an enumerator who included more information than he was required to do, and I know their marriage date and location because their youngest son, Sylvester Fletcher Brees/Breese (usually known as Fletcher), enlisted in the 50th New York Engineers of the Union Army during the Civil War and died of disease at the hospital in City Point, Virginia, less than three months after enlisting. Fletcher was only 19 years old when he died. Elizabeth applied for a parent’s pension, for which parents who were financially dependent on a child who died serving in the Union Army during the war were eligible. As you may already know, most parents’ pensions were proved by the parent sending letters from their child in with the pension, where the child said, for example, that they were sending part of their Union Army pay back to the parent with the letter; the letters were never returned, even though it may have been the last letter the parent ever received from their dead child, and they remain in the pension files today, now held at NARA in Washington, D. C.

Elizabeth & Charles's household on the 1865 NY state census

Elizabeth and Charles’s household on the 1865 New York state census, followed by the household of their married son John. The enumerator for this part of Chemung County, New York, took the unusual step of listing the maiden names of married women. Also note that Fletcher is enumerated here though he was dead by this time; this was so that his Civil War service could be enumerated (see the other image in this post). From ED 01, p. 17, of the Chemung County, New York, state census; in the FamilySearch images, it is image 9 of 24. (Image courtesy of FamilySearch.)

Elizabeth presumably didn’t have letters from Fletcher – I’m not even sure if Fletcher knew how to write – as she took the more unusual tack of soliciting testimony from neighbors and others, which were given as affidavits and are in her file. The testimony paints a dire picture of Elizabeth and Charles’s life on the margins of society. Charles had trained as a blacksmith, like his father before him, and Elizabeth and Charles lived on a very small farm. According to testimony, Charles’s physical and mental health problems had made it increasingly difficult for him to practice his smithing trade, and the tiny farm was on marginal land that barely produced enough to minimally feed the couple. Elizabeth’s testimony says she “has also been obligated to provide for the support of the father (i.e. her husband) ever since the enlistment of said Sylvester…” Unfortunately her testimony does not provide specifics on how she did this. Elizabeth’s and her neighbors’ testimony says that Fletcher had started working as a farm hand on other farms when he was about twelve years old and had used the money to support his parents before enlisting. Whether we as historians can believe testimony is always a question; even in modern courts some people believe testimony they hear “live” and others don’t. What I can say for sure is that the Pension Bureau believed the testimony, because Elizabeth was awarded a parents’ pension.

Civil War service of men living in ED01 of Chemung County, New York

Like many state censuses taken in Union states during the Civil War, enumerators in New York were asked to collect information on the service of people in their district for the 1865 New York state census. This is one of two blanks for reports of service of those in this part of the enumeration, and as instructed, the enumerator included information on which people were taken prisoner and/or had died. Sylvester and Corydon are the second and third people listed here. The listing for Sylvester says he died of Malaria Fever, which is different than what his Compiled Military Service Record says. The listing for Corydon reports his experience as a prisoner of war; Corydon was still serving at the time of the enumeration. (Image courtesy of FamilySearch.)

The pension file story doesn’t end there, though. Elizabeth died in 1876 and Charles, widowed and living alone, applied for a parent’s pension of his own. For his application to be approved, he had to prove his relationships – that he was married to Elizabeth and the father of the child through which Elizabeth had drawn a pension. That’s where Elizabeth’s marriage details show up in the pension file – not in her own application, but in her widower Charles’s. His testimony also includes that he had a “family Record” which was “in the hand writing of Elizabeth Brees wife of deponent and mother of said soldier who died,” and the Notary Public copied information about Sylvester from this record to send to the Pension Bureau. The current whereabouts of this family record, if it exists at all, are unknown.

Charles’s application also provides the detail that they had been married by Justice of the Peace Nathaniel Smith and that as far as they knew, there was no written record of the marriage. Nathaniel Smith had moved away long ago, and Charles had attempted to locate his whereabouts. The pension file includes an affidavit from someone who knew Elizabeth, Charles, and Nathaniel and who reported that Nathaniel had “removed from the said town of Veteran according to deponent best recollection about the year 1840 to one of the Western States (Illinois),” and that Nathaniel had died many years prior to Charles’s application. So Charles got someone else to give testimony that she had attended Elizabeth and Charles’s wedding. I always like when an application for something like a pension hits a snafu, as it generates additional records which provide additional details.

Most records list Elizabeth’s birth location as “Vermont” if they list it at all; at least one adult child lists her birth place as Montpelier, Vermont, on a record. However, so far I have not found Elizabeth in Montpelier or elsewhere in Vermont, and her birth family remains a mystery.

The information in this post illustrates very well how researching American women in the past generally primarily involves researching records regarding the men in their lives – such as their fathers and brothers, and their husband(s) and/or son(s) if they were married and/or had children. Most of what I know about Elizabeth comes from records generated by the actions of her youngest son and her husband/widower. This is not to suggest that Elizabeth was a passive participant in circumstance, simply that, for example, she applied for a pension because Fletcher made the ultimate sacrifice of his life; without his actions, she would not have been able to apply and there would be no pension file. However, it was Elizabeth’s choice to apply, and given that it was more difficult for an application to be successful without written letters from the financially supportive son, the fact that her pension was approved says something about Elizabeth’s application and the perceived credibility of Elizabeth and of the witnesses she chose to speak on her behalf.

The children of Elizabeth and Charles Brees/Breese:

  1. Erasmus Darwin (1831-1914) [went by Darwin], m. Amanda ___
  2. John P. (1833-1907), m. Harriet [Dean?]
  3. Charles F. (1836-1887), m. Sarah ___
  4. William Henry (1839-1855)
  5. Corydon (1841-1938), m. 1st Ann Tanner, m. 2nd Elizabeth (___) Daugherty
  6. Sylvester Fletcher (1845-1864)

Elizabeth and Charles are buried at Breesport Baptist Church Cemetery in Breesport, Chemung County, New York, but some of their family is buried at Hilltop Cemetery, also in Breesport, New York.

Further Research

  • A document compiled by Pension Bureau staff says that Elizabeth had recently purchased a small lot with money left to her by a deceased brother. Unfortunately it does not list the brother’s name nor where he had lived. So far the probate in question has not been located, but the search continues.
  • Evidence garnered to date suggests that Elizabeth’s husband Charles’s family moved from New Jersey directly to the Horseheads area. Thus, their marriage in Veteran could have been due to Elizabeth’s ties to the town rather than Charles’s, since as far as I have been able to determine so far, Charles does not appear to have had any connections to Veteran at the time. There were three Fletcher households enumerated in Tioga County on the 1820 U. S. federal census, though none were enumerated in Catharine. Since Elizabeth did not marry until 1829 in Veteran, it is quite possible that she and/or one or more relatives moved to the area after the 1820 census. So far nothing conclusive has been found, but research is continuing. However, Nathaniel Smith, who married them, lived in Veteran according to the pension file, so that could have been the reason they married there.
  • Regardless of the above, Elizabeth must have moved to Chemung County for some reason, and investigations into possible family connections to the area continue.
  • Presuming Elizabeth correctly self-reported a birth place of Vermont, investigation into what would have made someone go from Vermont to southern New York – whether she did so as a child with her family or a young woman on her own – may provide clues to her family and/or exactly where in Vermont she would have been most likely to have originated.
  • Hope remains that someday the family record mentioned in the testimony will surface intact.

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NOTES

My 2011 post “Civil War court martials” is about Elizabeth and Charles’s son Corydon, though I didn’t mention him by name in the post.

Another researcher has listed at various sites online that Fletcher died at Gettysburg. Not only did he die over a year after the Battle of Gettysburg, but he hadn’t even enlisted yet when the 50th NY Engineers were at the Battle of Gettysburg, completely refuting any possible argument that he belatedly died of injuries sustained at Gettysburg. Please check original sources yourself whenever they are extant – don’t take anyone’s word for anything!

Sarah Ann Mathews, generally called “Annie,” was born to Edward Isaac Mathews and Maria (Bray) Mathews of Limehouse in Greater London on 24 March 1864, the fourth of their five known children. Annie’s parents had been part of the story of the changing landscape of England: Her father had been born in the Bermondsey area of Surrey while her mother had been born in rural Devon. Annie’s mother had migrated to London, but exactly when is not clear, as the first London-area record in which I have found Maria is her marriage to Edward at St. Jude’s in Whitechapel in 1857. According to this blog post, St. Jude’s was just 9 years old when Maria and Edward married there, but by 1873 it would be neglected and abandoned. Taken over and rescued by the area reformers Samuel and Henrietta Barnett at that time, who had requested the assignment, St. Jude’s would one day be destroyed in the London Blitz.

According to their marriage record, Edward, a widower, was a carpenter living at what looks somewhat like “Alis Street,” and Maria was a spinster living at the “same place.” As with Edward’s first marriage, both witnesses were members of the Mathews family. While Maria gave the correct father’s name, the occupation is wildly wrong; whether she did not know the correct occupation of the father who had abandoned her family when she was a child or lied about it, there is no way to know. Either way, Maria was part of the early wave of people moving from rural England to urban areas. Was Maria one of the many who saw a move to the big city as a as a chance to consciously reinvent herself? Regardless of whether her reinvention was a conscious choice or not, Maria’s move dramatically improved her lot in life.

Edward had at least one surviving child, Mary Jane Mathews, born to his first wife, Elisabeth (Godwin) Mathews, and baptized at St. Peter’s in Walworth, Surrey. Edward and Maria stayed within the Tower Hamlets area, initially settling in Poplar, then moving to Limehouse between the 1861 census and Annie’s 1864 birth. At Limehouse the family lived within easy walking distance of one of the busiest waterfronts in London. The East India Company had docks very close by. The nearest Church of England church, St. Anne’s, had the highest church clock in London, and rang its bell every 15 minutes in a long tradition to help merchant mariners and Royal Navy seamen orient themselves as they neared the docks. It is estimated that 6,000 ships docked daily. There were also a large number of factories, warehouses, and other industrial buildings in the neighborhood. I imagine it must have been a noisy, bustling place to live. On the well-known Booth Poverty Maps of London, where the criteria used means that the ranking can change dramatically from block to block, their block was ranked fairly well-off. While the family was living in Limehouse, some buildings at the dead-end of their tiny Aston-street were knocked down and Aston-street was expanded.

By 1890 Annie’s father Edward had gained the right to vote through his residence at their 67 Aston-street home. He continued to appear on the voter rolls until 1897, the year after his death. In 1898 Annie’s widowed mother Maria appeared on the voter roll in his place. What happened to Maria after this is not yet known, but in her lifetime she had gone from working as a servant as a desperately poor young teen in rural England to being on the voter roll of London.

Maria’s family had been non-conformist when she was a child, so whether Maria and Edward’s children do not appear in the local Church of England baptismal registers as infants because they were non-conformists or because Maria and Edward did not baptize them anywhere is unclear so far. Annie chose adult baptism in the Church of England church St. Anthony’s at Stepney on 21 May 1884, with “(Adult baptism)” scrawled in large letters above the entry. The register lists her as still living at her family’s 67 Aston-street home in Limehouse, so it is interesting that she chose to be baptized at a church in Stepney.

On 17 February 1889, Annie married fellow local John Crowley, a clerk, at St. Matthew’s in Limehouse Fields. Both single, Annie and John were listed on the record as both living at 67 Aston-street at the time they married. Annie’s father and one of John’s relatives witnessed the marriage. Annie’s father remained a carpenter and her new husband’s father was an engineer. Maria had signed her marriage record in the childlike writing of someone who may have only known how to write their own name, while Annie signed her full name Sarah Ann Mathews in the confident hand of someone who was probably fully literate.

On the 1891 census Annie and John and their oldest child, a son named Victor John Edward Crowley, were living at 67 Aston-street, as were Annie’s parents; the address is divided into two separate households by the enumerator. Had John moved into the other half of 67 Aston-street and then literally married the girl next door? Or had he moved there because he already knew and liked Annie? These are the kinds of questions it is difficult to answer in the types of records typically left for posterity. Regardless, in 1891 John was still working as a clerk and Edward was still working as a carpenter.

In June 1896 the Crowleys’ oldest child Victor was listed in a register for school, part of a large group of children in the register for Garden-street Temporary School in Tower Hamlets. The family’s address was listed as “67 Ashton St.”

By 1901 Annie and John’s family had expanded, now with three living daughters in addition to their still-living oldest son: Gladys Annie Lizzie Crowley, Eva Rose Irene Crowley, and Hilda Iris Crowley. Their family was now listed first at 67 Aston-street while a single working woman was listed as the resident of the other half of the building. John was still working as a commercial clerk.

By 1911 the family had left both Aston-street and Limehouse behind. They had moved to Forest Gate in the West Ham area of County Essex. All four children I’ve mentioned in this post were still alive, but the enumeration says that Annie had a fifth child who had died. Annie and John had been married for 23 years. For the first time a record gives a more detailed glimpse of John’s working life than “commercial clerk”; he is listed as a Ledger Clerk in the industry “Oil, Gas, & Electric Heating Apparatus.” Their son Victor was enumerated as working as a Stockkeeper’s Clerk in the same industry, and their oldest daughter Gladys as a Vest Machinist in the industry “Gentleman’s Underwear and Vest Manufacturer.” Their two younger daughters were listed as still attending school.

Like millions of other mothers, Annie watched her son Victor go off to war in what would later come to be called World War I. Victor served in the Royal West Kent Regiment. Luckily for their family, Victor survived the war; he was discharged on 24 January 1919 after over 3 years of service, having enlisted on 23 November 1915. Someone scanned and posted a photo of Victor in his uniform, listing the year as 1914, and I am grateful they gave me the opportunity to see the photo.

Annie died on 23 February 1935 at Queen Marys Hospital in Stratford, Essex. Though she died in hospital, she was still living in Forest Gate in the West Ham area. While she was a widow when she died, I have yet to find the correct death record for her husband John. Annie did not leave a will, and her small estate was administered by her son Victor, who by then was working as a commercial traveller.

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