Friday, 7 October 2016

#16 Mary Temperance Sheaf & Elizabeth Sheaf - The nature of nurture.

I have been trying to round out the family of my 3 x great grandparents William Harbidge Sheaf and Mary Tomes Holland but have for a long time been unable to track down one of their younger daughters, Elizabeth. I have already written about her brothers Charles Holland Sheaf  and Jamaica George and of course the youngest family member Great Aunt Lou. I find this family particularly interesting as I am descended from two of the siblings, Jamaica George and Thomas Holland Sheaf. In the last week I have discovered the whereabouts of Elizabeth and found that her story is inextricably entwined with that of her slightly older sister Mary Temperance Sheaf.

Mary Temperance was born in 1819 and christened at Bidford on Avon. Elizabeth was born about 1825 but I have not been able to find any baptism records for her. At the time of the 1841 census both girls were still living at home, on the family farm at Bickmarsh, no doubt helping out in the house and looking after their younger siblings. By this stage their father had tragically drowned so their mother was managing quite a substantial farming enterprise.

In October 1841 Mary married a young fellow called James Price who hailed from Bushley about 20 miles away. For the first few years of their married life they were in the Welford on Avon district where they had 4 children; William Henry, Emily Martha, Timothy and Mary Jane. Some time between 1846 and 1851 they moved to Birmingham where James worked as a Corn Factor - a trader in grains. In about October 1852 another daughter was born, Fanny Elizabeth however Mary died shortly afterwards. Fanny's birth was registered in 1852 but she wasn't christened until 1854.

During this time, Elizabeth seems to have been working away from home in Cold Overton, Leicestershire as a matron in a girls orphanage. Certainly this is the most likely entry in the 1851 census.

What happened in the next couple of years is unsure, but in 1858 Elizabeth and James Price registered their marriage in Newport, Monmouthshire, Wales. Elizabeth's next younger sibling Samuel was also in Wales working as a banker, so he may have been the reason they ended up there. I can only assume that at some stage Elizabeth had been called upon to help James with his young family of five following the death of their mother.

In 1861 the family are still in Wales, at Llanfoist also in Monmouthshire. James is a farm agent and has a farm of about 148 acres. Young Timothy and Fanny Elizabeth are still living with them. Sometime during the next 10 years James dies as he does not appear to be in the 1871 census and Elizabeth has moved back to her home territory and is living in Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire. Emily and Fanny are living with her and they are running a small Governess School with at least 5 children boarding with them. Elizabeth describes herself as widowed.

Elizabeth and Fanny are still living there in 1881 but Elizabeth appears to have retired and calls herself a "superannuated governess." The entry for Fanny is not so easy to read but it appears to be "invalided governess" so presumably her health was not good. They are the only househoulders - there are no boarding children and no other staff.

I am sure that Elizabeth died sometime between the 1881 and 1891 census although I have not yet confirmed this through the records other than by her absence in the census. By 1891 Fanny has moved back to Wales and was living in Blaenevon with her older sister Mary Jane and her husband Edward Saunders.

Goodness knows whether Elizabeth found happiness in her marriage to James but I like to believe she found happiness and satisfaction in raising her sister's children. In every census during the time they are together she is described as their mother, not their step-mother and their relationships continued long into their adult lives. From a very young age she had responsibility for nurturing children who were not her own - her younger siblings, the orphanage girls, her sister's children and finally her young pupils. She accepted these challenges and ended up molding an independent life for herself.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

#15 George Holland Sheaf - Jamaica George revisited.

A while ago I wrote about my 2x great grandfather George Holland Sheaf and the mystery that surrounds much of his life (and death) in Jamaica. You can read that post here to refresh your memory. It seems however, that sometimes one only needs to wait before new information comes to light. As more and more records from around the world get digitized, more information is available to family researchers.

Just on the off chance I did another search for George Holland Sheaf and I have to say I was very, very surprised to see new results. The first new bit of information about him was that he did NOT die in about 1865, but lived until 1 Feb 1893, aged about 75. His death is recorded as having occurred at Bruce Hill in Kings District, Westmoreland, Jamaica. From the little I have been able to find out about Bruce Hill it appears that distant family connections probably through the Moores and the Tates owned this property. He is recorded as being a widower (which we knew) and a pauper (which we did not know).

The second somewhat startling discovery was that at least two of his children, other than Louisa our great grandmother, survived into adulthood. His eldest child Mary Moore Sheaf born in 1849 lived until 1909. She is recorded as dying a spinster at a place possibly called Barnes, Kings District, Westmoreland and her occupation is given as seamstress. Her younger brother George Kemble Holland Sheaf, born in about 1857, also survived childhood and lived until the age of 66, dying of fever in 1922. His death is recorded as having taken place at Friendship, Westmoreland. He also never married and is recorded as having been a carpenter.

Now all this just raises more questions! What happened to the other children? Who looked after them? Why was Granny Sheaf, Louisa, raised by Episcopalian Missionaries (so the story goes) and who were they? Did Granny Sheaf even know that she still had siblings alive after she left Jamaica? Was her father George Holland Sheaf somehow disowned by his wife's family the Briggs? Was he a wastrel? (Possibly, I would suspect!) Aaaaaaargh!!! So many little mysteries to solve!

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

#14 Culpepper Goddard - To the Manor Born

This week I have been trying to tidy up the Goddard ancestors on my Sheaf line and it has been proving quite tricky, even with the newly discovered help of Parish Register transcriptions from the Wiltshire Family History Society. The Goddard family was numerous and influential in this part of England but sadly they had very fixed ideas about the naming of children, which makes it a little tricky sorting out where everyone fits in! There are even instances of families with two Thomases or two Johns (usually designated the elder and the younger) but my word, where is the occasional Tibbot or Aubrey when you want one!

This led me to think about the person who connects the Goddard name to our family tree and she in fact has a beautiful and unusual name. Culpepper Goddard, my 8 x great grandmother was baptised in Miserden, Gloucestershire on the 10th August 1641. Her parents were Richard Goddard Esq of Swindon, Wiltshire and Culpepper Sandys. The name Culpepper was the maiden name of her grandmother Margaret, who had passed it on to her own daughter and thence to her granddaughter. Culpepper was the second daughter of Richard and Culpepper; the first being Sandys Goddard who had also been born at Miserden the year before. I wondered for a while why these first two children were baptised at Miserden when Richard was 'of Swindon' and all the later children were baptised at Swindon, however it became clearer when I realized that the Sandys family were based at Miserden. Culpepper Sandys' father William died several months before Culpepper Goddard was born so no doubt that would be reason enough for the baptisms at Miserden.

Richard and Culpepper went on to have three more daughters - Ann, Joan and Bridget - before Culpepper (the mother) died some time after Bridget was born. Richard remarried in 1648 and he and his new wife Ann Bowerman had a long awaited for son, Thomas, who went on to great prominence as High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1675. Richard died soon after young Thomas was born, so his new bride Ann was left to raise her own son and five step-daughters.

Richard was obviously quite a canny man and made sure he had made adequate provision for his daughters, so as to ensure good marriages for them. In Feb 1647/48 he entered into a sale of land along with his kinsmen Thomas Sandys of Miserden, George Fettiplace of Lincoln's Inn and William Lawrence of Broome in order to settle money, in trust, on his daughters Sandys, Culpepper, Ann and Bridget. I presume from this that Joan had died as a youngster.

In 1657, Culpepper received an inheritance from her bachelor Uncle Thomas Sandys, consisting of a gold ring with four diamonds in the form of a cross. I like to imagine that she may have worn this at her wedding which must have taken place fairly soon after. The exact details of when and where she was married are not yet discovered but certainly by 1661 she was wed to John Colles of Guiting Power in Gloucestershire and was a mother to a daughter called Culpepper!

Manor House near Guiting Power
© Copyright Roger Davies and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

It seems that the daughter gene continued on very strongly in this part of the family as John Colles and Culpepper only had three children, all daughters; Culpepper born in 1661, Eleanor (our ancestor) born in 1662 and Ann.

At some stage in their married life, Culpepper's bachelor uncle Edmond Goddard came to stay or live with them. When he died in October 1676 he was buried at Guiting Power and his will records bequests to his nieces Culpepper, Bridget and Ann as well as to his nephew by marriage John Colles.

The next mention of Culpepper comes in some legal documents of 1678 where she is named as the wife of John Colles. Also mentioned are two of her sisters, Ann and Bridget, described as spinsters and of Catislade, which was the name of the Colles manor where Culpepper and John were living. It appears that Culpepper as the elder and married sister was looking after the younger girls. I wonder how John coped with his wife, two sisters in law and three daughters? I imagine he went out a lot!

Culpepper was widowed in Jan 1694/95 and her husband John was buried in the church at Guiting Power. Not having any sons to take charge of the Manor, John's will is somewhat complicated. In essence he leaves the property to his good friends Nathaniel Lye (his brother in law, husband of his wife's sister Bridget Goddard) and George Townsend (his nephew, son of his sister Ann), with the income to be divided between his wife Culpepper, his brother William and his unmarried daughters Eleanor and Ann. Quite how the manor ended up back in the ownership of Eleanor and her eventual husband David Hughes I am not sure. Cetainly the incomes from his messuages, tenements, cottages and etc should have provided nicely for his wife and children. I just hope Mr Lye and Mr Townsend played fair!

The next evidence I have for Culpepper is her burial record in Guiting Power on 15th March 1707/08. She was 67 years old. What is interesting though, is that she obviously wasn't living in the manor at the time of her death. I have found an inventory taken after her death which indicates she was living in lodging rooms in Painswick, Gloucestershire. In her will, she divides most of her goods and chattels between her three daughters and I was very excited to find that her special diamond ring, received from her Uncle Thomas Sandys, was mentioned specifically and was bequeathed to her eldest daughter Culpepper.

I suppose the message I take most from Culpepper's story is how financially dependent women of these times were on their fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers in law and nephews. I am reminded of Mrs Bennet in Pride and Predjudice, who in spite of her annoying manners, really does understand the need for her daughters to be financially secure before the estate is entailed away, leaving her children potentially homeless and without prospects.  At all stages of her life Culpepper was forced to rely on men for her security and I hope that the fact she ended up in lodgings in Painswick isn't a result of the system failing to provide for her.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

#13 Mary Gifford - Three times a Lady.

Sometimes in the course of my research, an ancestor seems to emerge from the past and draw attention to themself, almost as if to say "Don't forget about me!" Mary Gifford has been spotted waving at me from the 16th century several times in the last couple of months, so I am acquiescing to her demands to be noticed.

Mary Gifford was born in about 1550, a daughter of John Gifford and Elizabeth Throckmorton, making her my first cousin 13x removed. I'm always happy to include first cousins in my family lines, as growing up I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a plethora of cousins who added so much to my life that it would seems surly and ungrateful not to recognize cousins just because they happened to be born 13 generations earlier!

At this stage, I have 6 siblings for Mary, some of whom have amazing stories of their own, but they will keep for another day.

In about 1572, Mary married Richard Baker of Sissinghurst in Kent. When I discovered the marriage, I already had Richard Baker in the family tree. His father Sir John Baker was peripherally associated with the Courthoppes and Sheafs in Cranbrook, Kent. I even suspect that Sir John's grandmother was Benet Sheaf, but I have no concrete evidence of that....yet! Richard and Mary had 4 children John, Thomas, Chyrosgena (sometimes recorded as Grisgone) and Cicely. Chrysogena was named after one of Mary's sisters. Richard was responsible for enlarging Sissinghurst into a fine Tudor residence. In fact so fine was it, that in 1573, Queen Elizabeth spent three days there on her summer progress. One can only imagine the anxiety (and the cost!) to Richard and Mary at hosting the Queen and her court, even though it did result in a knighthood for Richard.

Sissinghurst castle
Sissingurst, now famous for its Vita Sackville-West gardens, with the remains of the Tudor buildings in the background. Photo by Klaus D Peter, Germany.

Sir Richard Baker died in 1594, but Mary did not long remain a widow, for later in that same year she married Richard Fletcher, newly made Bishop of London. Fletcher was also a man with connections to the Sheaf family and Cranbrook. His brother Giles had married Joan Sheaf and his father Richard, who had been Vicar of Cranbrook, officiated at the 'hatching, matching and dispatching' of many other Sheaf family members.

Unfortunately for Mary, her somewhat precipitous second marriage was not universally approved of. Both she and her ecclesiastical husband were in conspicuous disfavour with Queen Elizabeth for marrying without her express consent. The Queen objected to the marriage of all bishops, and thought it especially indecorous in one only two years a widower. Fletcher was forbidden the court and suspended from performing all episcopal functions.

Mary was described as a handsome woman, a 'fine lady' but her reputation was tarnished and she was ridiculed by satirists of the day as a whore and "my Lady Lecher", which conveniently rhymed with Fletcher! Poor Richard died soon after on the 15th June 1596; still largely in disfavour, debt ridden and surrounded by a fug of tobacco smoke. It is most likely that at this point Mary returned to Sissinghurst to be near the children of her first marriage, especially to her two daughters Chrysogena and Cicely who were then in their twenties and who were said to be especially devoted to her.

In about 1597, Mary Gifford married for the third and last time. Her new husband was Sir Stephen Thornehurst of Forde in the Isle of Thanet, Kent. They were together about thirteen years, until Mary died in 1609. Her husband buried her in the St Michael Chapel of Canterbury Cathedral under a splendid monument. Lady Mary reclines somewhat jauntily at the feet of Sir Stephen, not looking in the slightest bit pious or repentant, dressed in her Tudor finest; for all the world as if to say "Well yes, here I am! What took you so long?"

Thursday, 19 May 2016

#12 Tibbot Bowker - What's in a Name?

Woah! My Sheaf ancestor rate has really ground to a halt over the last month or so as I have been consorting with ancestors of a very different sort! But life has settled again to something approaching normality and I once again have evenings at home in order to do some research.  This post's ancestor is a very new discovery and comes with a most interesting name.

Tibbot Bowker is my 11x great grandmother and was born in 1551 in the village of Quinton, once in Gloucestershire but now part of Warickshire. Her parents were Thomas and Elizabeth Bowker and she was one of at least 8 children. Tibbot was baptised on Valentine's Day, 14th February, in 1551. This means she was probably born either on or just before that date as most of the sources I have looked at suggest that baptisms occurred very soon after the birth of a child. I am guessing that high child mortality rates and the potential for dying outside the bosom of the church meant that time was of the essence.

In all probability, her father Thomas would have carried her to the church; Elizabeth, her mother, staying at home because the Church generally followed the old Jewish custom of keeping women from holy places for several weeks after childbirth. At the church, Thomas, the newborn Tibbot and the selected godparent would have been met at the door by the parish priest. The baby would be blessed and salt would be placed in her mouth to represent the getting of wisdom and also to exorcise any demons. Then Tibbot would have been carried into the church and up to the font where she would have been immersed in the water, wrapped in a chrysom or christening gown and officially named.

But just where does the name Tibbot come from? It originally was a nickname for Theobald, an Old German masculine name meaning "brave people." But it didn't stay that way. The fashion for girls' names at the time was to feminize boys' names by adding"-ot" or "-et." ,so it didn't take long for Tibbot to switch sides! After about 1300, Tib, Tibbot, and Tibet were considered the sole property of the girls; until the name faded into obscurity altogether. During the late 1500s it was certainly a fashionable name in the villages of Upper and Lower Quinton. There are several instances of the name being used across different families in the area, and yet I have not come across the use of this name in other parishes associated with my ancestors. Interestingly, "Tib" was also a very popular name for medieval female cats! (The males were often called Gib, pronounced with a hard g.)

At the age of twenty, our Tibbot married a young local man called Thomas Ryland, (sometimes spelled Rilande). I have found baptisms in Quinton for four children of Thomas and Tibbot and I suspect there may be more, as the first one is in 1580 about 8 years after their marriage. Sometimes children were baptised across a couple of parishes so I need to do some further scouting here.

Tibbot died in March 1612/13 at the age of 62 years and her burial was recorded in the parish register as Tibbot Rilande, wife of Thomas Rilande the elder.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

#11 George Holland Sheaf - Jamaica George and the Lost Children.

My 2x great grandfather George Holland Sheaf was born in 1817, a son of William Harbidge Sheaf and Mary Tomes Holland. He was the third born of their eleven children and was baptised in Bidford on Avon on the 15th Jan 1818. The family were farmers living in the hamlet of Bickmarsh near Bidford on Avon and by the time of the 1841 census, Mary and her two eldest sons Thomas and George were farming the property and providing for all the younger children; William Harbidge Sheaf having died suddenly in 1837.

Sometime in the next few years, George left his home and family in England and set sail for the colony of Jamaica. I have no record of exactly when he departed England or arrived in Jamaica but by 1847 he is recorded as being a "planter" there. As a young man of limited means, there is no evidence that George owned any land and most probably would have been employed as a manager on either a sugar or tobacco plantation.

At about this time George married a young English woman whose family were also on the island seeking to make their fortune. Cornelia Martha Briggs was born in Hackney but her mother Deborah Heath Moore was from a family that had long been settled in Jamaica and did own significant amounts of land and many slaves. I have never been able to locate a record of their marriage but it is generally assumed they married in Jamaica rather than in England. The were living at Kings Pen in the county of Westmoreland and George was now a "pen keeper". Pens were livestock properties rather than horticultural ventures and so the main activity would have been raising cattle. Kings Pen was under the ownership of George's mother-in-law Deborah Heath Briggs and it seems he was employed by the family company as a manager.

In an 1837 claim for compensation it is recorded that Kings Pen had 71 slaves with a value of  £1332. Slavery had finally been abolished in the British Caribbean in 1833, but in the way of all big social changes it took some time for this to filter through to the business practices of Jamaican agriculture. Cynically, I will also say that those who stood to lose the most quickly found a 'work around' by negotiating a settlement that established a system of apprenticeship, tying the newly freed men and women into another form of unfree labour for fixed terms. It also granted £20 million in compensation, to be paid by British taxpayers to the former slave-owners.

In 1849 the first of George and Cornelia's children, Mary Moore Sheaf, was baptised at Westmoreland. Four more children followed in relatively quick succession: William Robert Sheaf in 1851, Minna Cornelia Sheaf in 1853, George Kemble Holland Sheaf in 1857 and Charlotte Elizabeth Ann Sheaf in 1859. Then in 1863 my great grandmother and the last of their children Louisa Althea Sheaf was born.

Just what happened next is still something of a mystery, despite the best efforts of several different researchers. We know that in October 1865 George's wife Cornelia Martha died. She was buried on the 29th October at Westmoreland. This was a time of great political and social turmoil in Jamaica which resulted in an uprising fuelled by the widespread poverty in Jamaica which had been exacerbated by extremes of weather and outbreaks of disease and I wonder if she succumbed to one of the many epidemics of something like cholera or smallpox.

Our last record of George Holland Sheaf is also in 1865 as a signatory to an open letter to the Governor of Jamaica, Edward John Eyre (yes - the same one who did exploring in Australia!) to support his actions in putting down the uprising and punishing those involved. 

The letter starts: May it please your Excellency, 
We, the undersigned Inhabitants of the parish of Westmoreland, beg respectfully to express to your Excellency, the satisfaction we feel from the continuance of peace and tranquility generally throughout the colony, during a period in 
which we had reason to fear, from discoveries made in the recent lamentable insurrection in St. Thomas ye East, that a great and general danger, was to be apprehended. 

We are happy to assure your Excellency, that in this part of the island, a loyal and peaceable feeling seems now generally to prevail, and that the labouring population are willingly engaged in their usual avocations ; and we are of opinion, that this result has been largely promoted by the judicious measures taken by your Excellency's Government, for the preservation of peace, during a time of great excitement and alarm. 

The letter continues for several more paragraphs in a similar vein -very much stating a case of "nothing to see here!"

Moving from the big picture back down to the more personal aspects of these events, we just don't know what happened to George Holland Sheaf after the uprising. The family tale is that during a bad hurricane or as a result of the hurricane George rode on horseback with the youngest child Louisa (my great grandmother) and took her to a place of greater safety and then he died or was killed in an accident soon after. The fate of all the other young Sheaf children is also a mystery but seems to suggest that they too died at about that same time. Other than their baptism records and a handwritten slip of paper with their names and birth dates found in my great grandmothers purse they have disappeared from the records too.

I find it sad and a little disconcerting that events which are not so far back in our family history are so shrouded in uncertainty and I live in hope that one day I will discover a little more.

Monday, 11 April 2016

#10 Thomas Kemble Holland - A Man of Pleasing Manners.

Thomas Kemble Holland was my 4 x great grandfather and spent most of his life in and around the parish of Mickleton in Gloucestershire. He was born to David Hughes Holland and his second wife Jane Stokes in 1767 and was baptized in the church at Weston Subedge. He had two older half-sisters from his father's first marriage to Mary Ashwin and, in 1768, a younger brother was born and named David Hughes Holland after his father. When Thomas was only 6 years old, his father died, leaving his mother Jane to raise her own two small boys as well as her two young step-daughters. It appears that she was supported in this by Thomas's grandfather John Holland of Mickleton.

In 1791 Thomas made a very advantageous marriage to a young lady called Temperance Tomes who was from the well-respected Tomes family of Long Marston . According to Ian Tomes who is the keeper of much of the Tomes family history, at the time of their marriage Thomas Kemble Holland had property worth about £20,000. The National Archives currency converter has this at about £1 120 600 today! He was described in the family record as a 'gentlemanly man of pleasing manners, but very passionate....intemperate'. Ironic really, given that his wife was called Temperance!

Between 1793 and 1808 the couple had 10 children, 8 of whom survived past infancy. The children were all baptized in the church of St Lawrence in Mickleton. My ancestor Mary Tomes Holland, was the second oldest child and was born in 1794. By about the time the last child, Charles Wynne Holland, was born in 1809 the family story is that Thomas had squandered his fortune. I find this somewhat concerning as in 1796 Thomas had been made trustee of two inheritances for his much younger cousin Charles Wynne, who was only nineteen at the time and who was considered " unable to take on the burden" of the significant estate. The evidence certainly is that Thomas wasn't the greatest financial manager so I hope that young Charles Wynne had something left of his inheritance by the time he came of age!

By the time Thomas Kemble died in May 1815 he still owned some land in and around Mickleton and he was able to leave cash bequests of about £300 each to his living children. The Tomes family records say, with some nuance of distaste, that he 'died from the effects of hard drinking.' Thomas was buried in the churchyard at Mickleton on 19 May 1815 and was survived by his wife Temperance.

Church of St Lawrence, Mickleton
© Copyright 
David P Howard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Friday, 25 March 2016

#9 Mary Mitchell - The Reverend's Wife

Writing about women in the context of family history can be somewhat challenging. Their doings rarely feature in the sorts of sources that can often give us so much detail of the business of the menfolk and beyond the bare facts of family life, such as having their children baptised, it can be difficult to flesh them out. Even when we do discover something about them it is often in the context of their fathers, husbands or male children.

I have for some time known that My 6x great grandmother, wife of the Reverend George Stokes, was called Mary. It is only in the last week that I have learnt a little more about her, with my acquisition of another volume of Ralph Bigland Esquire's Historical Monuments of Gloucestershire. (Bless him!) As I skimmed through the records for Cheltenham an entry caught my eye - "Mary Stokes, wife of the Rev Mr George Stokes". Excitingly, the inscription continued "Daughter of the above Edward Mitchell died Jan 7, 1778 aged 75 years." At last I had a family name to work with.

Mary was born in about 1702 and baptised in Cheltenham on the 28th October of that year. Her father was Edward Mitchell and her mother Martha Bridges, the third of his four (yes four!) wives. At the time of her birth, three of her six previously born siblings were still alive. Mary's mother died in March of 1703/04.

Sometime in about 1730, Mary married George Stokes. George had studied at Jesus College, Oxford University; been ordained a priest in 1728 and had been appointed as curate for Cheltenham in about 1729. Looking through the parish register images I have been able to find his name signed many times, although I have been able to discover little else about him. At about this time she also received a bequest from her half-brother John Mitchell who died unmarried and childless at the age of 36.

Between 1730 and abt 1740 Mary gave birth to nine children, six of whom survived infancy. Her daughter Jane our ancestor, baptised in 1734, is the earliest baptism record I can find for any of her children. Michael, baptised in 1739 is the latest.

I have not yet been able to find any details of the death of her husband George but I do know from the will of Thomas Kemble of Tewkesbury that he had died before 1770. For I long time I have been wondering what the Kemble connection to our family is and, in fact, devoted an earlier post to it. I now believe that Thomas Kemble of Tewkesbury's  mother Elizabeth was a much older half sister of Mary's. Elizabeth was born in about 1680 and I think she is the daughter of Edward Mitchell and his first wife Ann Carter, who is incidentally also a 2nd cousin to me! Thomas Kemble would therefore be a half-nephew of Mary's and it would be likely that he would feel some family obligation to remember her in his will.

In 1777, Mary wrote her own will. She bequeaths to her widowed daughter Jane Holland £448 as well as the bond for a debt of £140 that she had previously lent to Jane's husband David Hughes Holland. She also leaves £180 to be shared between the five children of her deceased daughter Martha Jordan. She notes that in the past she had advanced about £400 to Martha and her husband Thomas and so her bequest to the children makes this amount up to be roughly equal to her bequests to her other children.All her household goods go to her daughters Mary Stokes, a spinster, and Dorothy Wynne, wife of Robert Wynne. Lastly the rest of her estate is to be divided equally between Mary, Dorothy and her only surviving son George.

Mary died in Cheltenham on the 7th of Jan 1778 and was buried on the 16th Jan at the church of St Mary in Cheltenham. Her memorial inscription is recorded as having been on a flat stone in the south aisle and transept of the church near those of her father, her half-brothers John and Edward, three of her father's wives and her own daughter Martha Jordan.

St Mary's Minster, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

#8 William Sheaf - Cut from a Reforming Cloth

To get to this week's ancestor we have to go back, way back to about 1543 when William Sheaf was born in the town of Cranbrook in Kent. His grandfather Thomas Sheaf is the earliest recorded Sheaf in this area and William was born to Richard Sheaf and Elizabeth Andrews. William was the sixth of nine children born to this wealthy family of clothiers.

The Weald of Kent, where Cranbrook is situated, was known at this time for its excellent grey broadcloth. Many families in the area were involved in the cloth trade at all levels; either raising sheep for wool, milling the cloth or providing material or labour to use in the process. Edward III had encouraged Flemish weavers to move to England in order to break the Flemish monopoly over the wool trade. Many of them settled in the Kentish Weald and Cranbrook became a centre for the manufacture of a fine, woollen broadcloth called Cranbrook Grey. When Queen Elizabeth I visited the town in 1573, she is said to have walked along a mile long piece of Cranbrook Grey made specially for the purpose. There is certainly a possibility that this cloth may have been made by the Sheaf family or their many connections.

In 1569 William married Katherine Courthoppe, the daughter of another wealthy Cranbrook family involved in the cloth trade. There were several marriages between these two families, including one between William's sister Margaret Sheaf and John Courthoppe. Although William and Katherine both lived long lives, they had no children.

The next we hear of William Sheaf is in about 1575 in the midst of a religious squabble between the vicar of Cranbrook, Richard Fletcher and John Stroud a dissenting preacher. According to one source William Sheaf sympathized with Stroud who as well as being a radical preacher was operating an illegal printing press somewhere in the parish of Cranbrook. In order to quell the brewing parish troubles Richard Fletcher (son of Richard Fletcher the vicar of Cranbrook and also a preacher) came from Rye to caution the people against ideas of reformation, but his sermon "did not calm the troubled spirits and a fierce contention followed, whereupon William Sheaf, one of the Church wardens, met the noisy disclaimers in a true John Bull-like manner with his feet firmly set and his head erect, and uttered these decided words "We WILL have Mr. Stroud to preach to us."

As William aged, we learn from the sources that he did not enjoy the best of health. On 17th July 1598 a jury of Cranbrook worthies were all indicted for contempt because on 3 May 1598, being sworn as jurors at a hundred leet held at the market cross in Cranbrook, they elected William Sheaf of Cranbrook, yeoman, to serve as hundred constable "although they knew him to be an infirm man incapable of discharging the office." The hundred constable was a parish law enforcement officer, usually part time and usually unpaid! The motives of the jury in electing William to this office can only be suspect, given his inability to perform the duties required. William would have been about 55 years of age.

William lived for almost another 20 years after this and died in December 1616. Interestingly we learn a lot about William's lifestyle from his very detailed will and his many bequests to his brother and sisters, nieces and nephews. We know for instance that living with him at the time of his death, his wife Katherine having died in 1611, were two sons of his cousin Peter Courthoppe. He was also in a position to be lending money as he bequeathed the above named Peter Courthoppe "the £20 I lent unto our Sovereign Lord James (King James 1 of England), and the privy seal which I have thereof." This presumably allowed the money to be given to Peter Courthoppe should the King ever decide to pay back his loan. As well as other numerous bequests of money, William left silver cups, spoons and salters; his book of martyrs and two bibles; feather beds and other furniture and pots and glasses. He also held significant amounts of property around Cranbrook and neighbouring towns which he distributed among his relatives. One of these properties was 'Old Wilsley', a beautiful timbered Wealden hall house and cloth hall, probably built in the 15th century. There is some suggestion it may have been built by the Courthoppe family. Certainly it is known that in 1569 Richard Courthoppe’s widow Anne married the Revd Thomas Lawes, whose will in 1594 left ‘Wylsley in Cranbrook’ to his daughter Katherine and her clothier husband William Sheafe. William left it to his nephew Edmund Sheaf, son of his brother (our direct ancestor) Thomas.

Old Wilsley, Cranbrook, Kent.
William was buried inside the church of St Dunstan in Cranbrook and a brass plate was placed in his honour. "William Sheaf after he had lived godly and christianly the space of 73 years he departed this life the 21 of December, 1616, and his body lies here buried"
Brass plate for William Sheaf, St Dunstan, Cranbrook.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

#7 Edward and Ann Sheaf - 'Til Death Us Do Part.

Edward Sheaf of Chipping Campden is still a relatively shadowy figure in our family story. By that, I mean that I only have sparse information about his life and I am not even 100% sure of his place in the tree. However for now, let us just assume that Edward Sheaf, the son of Edward Sheaf and Catherine was born in the Buckland area of Gloucestershire in about 1725 and is a first cousin 7 times removed.

In September of 1747 he married Hannah Webb at Chipping Campden. They were both described as being "of this parish", meaning that they lived within the parish boundaries. Together they had 5 children, Edward, John, Samuel, Mary and Hannah - all born between 1748 and 1755. What happened to these children I have not yet been able to discover; that will be a job for another day.

Some time after 1755, Hannah died and in 1788 widower Edward remarried. His new wife, Ann Fletcher, had also been widowed, her husband John dying sometime after their 1784 marriage. I suspect Ann may also have had another marriage prior to that, as she would have been about 58 when she married John. Her name at the time of her marriage to John Fletcher was Ann Stephens. Ann and Edward married in the parish church at Offenham, and being described as both "of this parish" I am assuming that this is where they were now living.

Years passed and in 1803 their story takes an interesting turn.
According to the London Morning Post "A few days since, at age 83, Mr Edward Sheaf of Offenham in the county of Worcester died; and just as the hearse came to fetch the deceased, died his wife Mrs Ann Sheaf also aged 83." Another document, compiled by Peter Stewart of the registers for St Mary and St Milburgh Offenham, says  "Anne Sheaf. Died within half an hour of the time appointed for her husband’s funeral at Sawford 1st October 1803, aged 77 "

Although there are some discrepancies with ages, this is not unusual as newspapers then were about as accurate as newspapers are now! However both sources agree on the fact that Ann died very close to the time of her husband's funeral.

In terms of our family genealogy, the facts that Ann had been married to a John Fletcher and Edward had been married to a Hannah Webb are both interesting, as these are names that regularly crop up in the family tree.

Offenham Church SS Mary and Milburgh 1903

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

#6 Francis Sheaf - The Inkberrow Borrower

"Whereas Francis Sheaf, late of the Red Lion, at Falsham Pitts near Droitwich, Worcestershire, did on Saturday the 25th April last, about 12 o'clock at night borrow of John Cox a farmer at Inkberrow in Worcestershire (on pretense of going to Bromsgrove and returning the next day), a black gelding about 15 hands and an inch high, rising four years old, natural tail at full length, except one joint, some little white on the forehead  and on the near hind foot, has lost a vein by bleeding on the near side of the neck; and the said Francis Sheaf has not returned the said gelding or since been heard of."

So the story starts in the Stamford Mercury of June 19th 1789. But Francis's story goes back to about 1759 when he was born, probably in Kings Broom near Bidford on Avon, to Francis Sheaf, master weaver and Mary Vincent his wife, my 5 x great grandparents. Francis was baptized on the 12 October of that year at Bidford on Avon, the eighth of twelve children.

The next time Francis appears in the records is in 1871 at the time of his marriage to Ann Haywood at Inkberrow. A family soon followed, all baptized at Inkberrow, starting with daughters Ann and Mary in 1783 and 1785 respectively; then twins Thomas and Millicent in 1788, and lastly Martha who was baptized in September 1789. Presumably Francis was not present at the baptism of his youngest daughter as the newspaper article indicates that if and when he reappeared, there would be potentially severe consequences for his actions.

"This is therefore to give notice that whoever will give any information to the said John Cox or to Mr Jones, Attorney at Law in Alcester, Warwickshire, respecting the said Francis Sheaf, or of the said gelding, whereas the same may be recovered by the owner shall receive three guineas reward." Using a nifty online converter, this translates in today's money to about 180 pounds, which would have bought about 20 days worth of employment of a skilled craftsmen - quite a significant amount really, especially if you have had to pay a plumber recently!

One interesting aspect of this newspaper article, is that it goes on to give a description of Francis.

"The said Francis Sheaf is about 5 feet six inches high, fresh complexion, wears his own dark hair, and had on when he went away a brown homespun double milled cloth greatcoat, with a double row of twist buttons rather new down the breast, which he already borrowed of Mr Cox."(Being the son of master weaver he probably recognized a good quality item when he saw one!)

"He was seen at the house of one Lacon, a Carrier, at or near Birmingham Heath (near which his wife word blotted) on Sunday the 26th April, and is supposed to be now in or about Lincoln."

Whether Francis Sheaf ever showed up again, and whether Mr Cox got his gelding and coat back, is as yet unknown. I have not found any record for Francis beyond this 1789 article.

Red Lion, Droitwich in 2012. 
© Copyright P L Chadwick and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Friday, 5 February 2016

#5 William Harbidge Sheaf - A Melancholy Accident.

Melancholy reads a small headline in an 1837 issue of an English newspaper. When I first started investigating the Sheaf family history I came across a small footnote on a family tree sent to me by Ian Tomes in England that simply said "drowned in Weston Lock". Although I looked long and hard for some evidence of this, I was unable to find out what had precipitated the sudden death of William Harbidge Sheaf, my 3x great grandfather, in 1837. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the intervention of a lovely lady in Wales I finally have access to a contemporary account of what happened to him and have been able to solve several small research mysteries in the process.

William was born in Bidford on Avon in about 1790 and baptised on the 7th of April of that year. In 1813 he married Mary Tomes Holland of Mickleton and they embarked on making a family of 11 children, at least 8 of whom were still alive at the time of their father's death. If you have been following the blog to date you might remember that William and Mary were the parents of 'Great Aunt Lou' and the young Charles Holland Sheaf of previous posts.

William and Mary were farming in the Bickmarsh area near Bidford on Avon. As well as their farming and family responsibilities, William had other community roles. In 1827 for instance he was Surveyor of the Highways for Bickmarsh. A 1691 Parliamentary Act legislated for each parish to appoint a Surveyor of Highways or 'Waywarden', under the jurisdiction of the Justices and County Quarter Sessions. The person nominated would be served with a warrant by the Parish Constable confirming his appointment for the coming year. Acceptance was compulsory!

According to one website, his first task would have been to take over any balance of money from his predecessor and become acquainted with on-going works. Three times a year, at least, "he had to view all the roads, byways, water courses and pavements within his precinct and make presentation upon oath in what condition he finds same, to the next Justices".

It was a requirement that owners of land adjacent to the highway clear their ways of any timber, stones or other obstructions and cleanse and scour the adjoining gutters and drains. Overhanging growth and hedges had to be cleared in order that "from one end of the parish to the other there might be a clear passage for travellers and carriages" and "that the sun may shine onto the ways to dry same".

At all times he had to look out for "and waylay any waggons, wains or carts etc. that are not drawn by the statutory number of oxen or horses". The very next Sunday after discovering any default or annoyance, he was required to stand up in the parish church, after the sermon, and proclaim any offender in order that they may be prosecuted. Now that would add a little something to the Sunday worship!

There was also the organising of six days of the year when parishioners were 'recruited' to provide Statute Labour, with horses, carts and all necessary tools, to undertake highway repair. Statute Labour Duty is defined as the amount of labour or works of public utility formerly required by Statute to be perfomed by residents of the district. In addition there was the disagreeable duty of reporting any defaulter to the justices.

If all this was not enough, the person nominated as Surveyor, who could be fined for refusing to accept office, might himself be penalised a sum of forty shillings for any default or neglect of his duty.

It would perhaps have been a fitting irony if William had met his accidental death on the highways. It was however the river Avon that was to be his nemesis. According to a newspaper of the time he was returning home on the evening of February 17th, on foot, from Stratford market. When he got to the river crossing near Luddington the boatman was nowhere to be found, so William rowed himself across the river to the other side. It is supposed that in endeavouring to step out of the boat at the far side a jolt or bump threw him backwards out of the boat and into the water. His hat and stick were found in the boat and his body was found the next day very near to the boat crossing place.

The river Avon at Luddington
© Copyright David P Howard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
According to the newspaper he left "a wife and nine children, together with a large circle of relatives and friends to mourn the irreparable loss of a good husband, an affectionate father and a strictly honest man."

William was buried in the churchyard at Dorsington where his memorial stone simply proclaims "Sacred to the memory of William Sheaf, late of Bickmarsh, who departed this life February 17th 1837 aged 48 years".

Thursday, 21 January 2016

#4 Charles Holland Sheaf - A Long Way from Home.

Not all our Sheaf ancestors stayed in the Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire area of England. Some ventured much further afield to other outposts of the Empire. One such traveller was Great Aunt Lou's older brother Charles Holland Sheaf.

Charles was born in the Cleeve Prior area in 1829, the third last child of William Harbidge Sheaf and Mary Tomes Holland. He was baptised in the August of that year at Welford on Avon.

Our next record of Charles is in the first English census in 1841. He is living at home on the family farm at Bickmarsh. His father was by this time dead so I guess that Charles would have been required to help out, along side his older brothers. It is unlikely that at 12 years old he would still have been attending school.

At some stage in the next 10 years Charles took the huge step of moving away from home and family. I don't know what prompted him to leave England, what route he took or even when he actually went; but I do know that he ended up in Wellington, South Africa. Today, Wellington is the centre of a prosperous fruit and wine growing region about 75 km from Cape Town; but in the 1850s I imagine it was pretty much a frontier town on the edges of the British Empire.  It was here that he died in 1851.

According to the documentation of his death, he was working as a police constable at Wellington. At only 22 years and 4 months, about 10 000 km from his home and family, he died alone in " a hired chamber near the lock up house at Wellington. His only possessions were "his clothes, a stretcher and mattress, a chair and one month's pay £3. "

Whether the news of his death eventually made it home or not I don't know. Certainly the document of his death accurately shows his parents' names and his place of birth, but by 1851 both his parents were already dead. Such a lonely way for a young life to end.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

#3 Louisa Sheaf - Great Aunt by name, great Aunt by nature.

Great Aunt Lou was something of a legend in the Sheaf family, both at Honeybourne in England and in Australia. Although having no husband or children of her own, she was firmly enmeshed in the daily lives of those around her and a personage of some importance!

Louisa Sheaf was the youngest child of William Harbidge Sheaf and Mary Tomes Holland, my 3 x great grandparents. She was born in 1835 and had 10 older siblings. Her father was a farmer at Bickmarsh in the parish of Welford on Avon. When Louisa was only 2 her father died suddenly. According to a distant family connection Ian Tomes in England, who has a large collection of Tomes family documents and memorabilia, he drowned at Weston Lock in the Avon river. I have not yet been able to confirm this from documentary sources, but he certainly died intestate, which does rather suggest a sudden death.

Louisa's mother Mary must have been an amazing woman as she carried on the family farming business until her death in 1846; as well as providing for her large family.

After her baptism at Welford on Avon in 1835, the next record I have for Louisa is in the 1841 census. At only 6 years of age, she was living with a cousin's family in Badsey. John Sheaf, his wife Sarah and their grown up daughter Margaret had three little children living with them, and it appears from the 1840 Bentley's History and Directory of the Borough of Evesham that Sarah and Margaret ran a small preparatory school for infant children.

In 1851, Louisa was living and working in Northampton as an apprentice to a distributor of religious tracts! Apparently, Northampton was considered fertile ground for the Baptist movement and prodigious amounts of tracts were distributed weekly in a well organized and systematic mission.

 I don't know how long Louisa remained with the Cooper family in Northampton, but by 1861 she had moved again and was working for a Jewish family, the Myers, in Edgbaston, Warwickshire. This was to be a long lasting relationship for Louisa who remained with the Myers family for at least 20 years as a domestic servant and then a nurse domestic. Maurice Myers, his wife Mathilda and their children must have come to greatly love Louisa, as in the 1901 census she is visiting Mathilda at the home of her daughter Lella Samuels in Hampstead and is described as "friend". Another Myers child, Leopold, was eventually the executor of Louisa's will after her death in 1932 at the age of 98.

Interestingly, Louisa's impact on the Myers family possibly had far reaching consequences for many people in the broader community. In 1913, Leopold Myers gifted a country house at Cleeve Prior for use as a convalescent home for women. The home was known as The Gertrude Myers Convalescent Home, in memory of his own wife. Both Gertrude and Leopold had been directors of the Birmingham Hospital for Women and realized that a convalescent home providing fresh air, good food and rest could make a huge difference to the recovery of patients, especially for working women who might otherwise not get an opportunity to recuperate in peace and quiet. I can only imagine that Leopold's many years of association with Louisa, a perfect example of a hard working women, were instrumental in his choice of Cleeve Prior as the site for his charitable project.

As an unmarried woman of limited means, it appears that Louisa didn't ever have a home of her own. Once she had finished working for the Myers family, she lived with various relatives. In 1891 she was living with her much older brother Thomas Holland Sheaf, my 2 x great-grandfather and then in the 1911 census, she was recorded as living with her niece by marriage Kate Sheaf (Careless) at Sunnyside, Cleeve Prior. She also featured in stories of life at Honeybourne as told to my father by his mother and grandmother, as she was an aunt to both my great grandfather George Cornelius Sheaf and my great grandmother Louisa Sheaf. It is in fact quite likely that great grandmother Louisa was named for her.

Once great grandma Louisa emigrated to Australia leaving her husband and step-children behind, she kept in touch with her dear Aunt Lou.
I have a very short letter from Great-Aunt Lou to her niece Louisa in which she says:

"Just a line to wish you may have a Happy Bday and that you may spend many others and under much more happy circumstances. I am giving you a purse with initials which was given to me but which I have never used and which I hope you will accept with my love and best wishes for the coming season. A very Happy Xmas and a much brighter New Year when it comes. Aunt Lou."

I think this photo, taken at Honeybourne in 1921 on the occasion of a family wedding encapsulates what was probably a delicate position for Great Aunt Lou: biological aunt to both Louisa Sheaf on her right and Louisa's husband George Cornelius Sheaf on her left - caught in the middle of a difficult marriage with family loyalty going both ways.

To my mind, Louisa was the ultimate great Aunt. She supported herself from a very young age through hard work; she had the ability to build positive relationships with those around her and she lived to a great old age, becoming something of a legend in the process. Her headstone in the churchyard of Cleeve Prior simply reads "Oh Rest in the Lord". And rest is what I think she deserved after such a long and busy life. Here's to Great Aunt Lou!

Thursday, 7 January 2016

#2 Emlin Holland - A Name for All Time.

When I first started looking at the family tree, this was a name that jumped out at me. I love the name Emlin - it seems romantic and slightly other worldly. I have never known anyone named Emlin and one of my research goals was to look at where this name might have come into the family.

Emlin Holland was baptised on 3rd June 1800 in the parish church of Mickleton in Gloucestershire. Her parents were Thomas Kemble Holland and Mary Tomes (my 4 x great-grandparents). She was one of 10 children and fell right in the middle of the family.

In 1816, she married Cotterell Corbett a tanner, at Church Honeybourne. They settled at Lichfield in Staffordshire where, in 1822, they began their own family. Their first child, named Emlin for her mother, only lived a few days but between 1823 and 1829, another five children were born; the last being another Emlin Holland to carry on the name.

In 1830 Cotterell Corbett died in Lichfield and was buried back at Lower Quinton where his branch of the family originated from. How Emlin managed for the next few years I am not sure, but in 1835 she married again, this time to a distant relative of Cotterell's; a farmer by the name of George Sheaf. George was a son of Samuel Sheaf and Sarah Harbidge and the older brother of Charles Sheaf from last week's post.

Between 1836 and 1842 Emlin and George had four sons, William, George, John Holland and Samuel. Along with some of the children from Emlin's first marriage, the family lived and worked on a farm at Marlcliff, near Bidford on Avon.

In 1852, just before her death, this very early Ambrotype was made of Emlin. According to a distant family connection in England, in a letter to my Aunty Thea, it was taken in the front doorway of the farmhouse at Marlcliff. 
He says " one can just see her key ring, which we still have, with her name on it - Emeline Corbett - Lichfield"

And as for the name Emlin, I have traced it back through her family line to Emlin Winchester, born abt 1612 in Ascott-Under-Wychwood in Oxfordshire; the sister of our direct ancestor Anne Winchester. It appears in various spellings as Emlin, Emlyn, Emeline, Emmaline and survived in the family naming traditions for 400 years! 

Saturday, 2 January 2016

#1 Charles Sheaf - Miller to Madness

The fascination of family research is not in the names and dates, but for me, the stories behind the facts. The story of Charles Sheaf, my 4x great-uncle is a perfect example.

Charles was the youngest son of my 4 x great grandparents Samuel Sheaf and Sarah Harbidge. He was baptised at Bidford on Avon in 1801. Curiously, his baptism is also recorded in the register, on the same date, in the church at Wolston in Warwickshire. The two parishes appear to have been sharing a clergyman who wanted to make sure he didn't miss a soul!

In 1825 Charles married a young woman called Mary Lunn. They were married in the parish of Norton and Lenchwick. In the next year, 1826, their first son Charles was born and baptised at Norton and Lenchwick. Charles senior was described as 'miller of Harvington Mill' in the baptism entry but sadly this same year, he was also declared a bankrupt ' dealer and chapman'. The business and all the families associated goods and chattels were put up for auction. How difficult this must have been for a young family embarking on their new life together, with the added pressure of a child to take care of.

By 1827, the family had moved to Hanley in Staffordshire, where 4 more boys were born, only one of whom survived past the age of 5. How Charles was supporting his growing family, I have not been able to find out; but in about 1834 the family moved again, this time to Birmingham where the family grew in size to include another son Robert and two daughters. The 1841 census has the family residing in Christ Church Passage in Birmingham and Charles is employed as a 'commercial agent.' Presumably this is some kind of salesman.
Between 1842 and 1846 four more children were added to the family, but then disaster struck.

Just a couple of months before the baptism of the last baby, Stephen Peter, Charles was admitted to a provincial lunatic asylum somewhere in Warwickshire, as a pauper. To compound the tragedy poor Mary died in 1849 and this young family was left effectively orphaned. In 1850 Charles was again admitted to an asylum, this time at Haydock Lodge in Lancashire and by the 1851 census, he had been moved to an asylum in Birmingham where he appears to stay until April 1855.

The children by this stage were scattered. Eldest son Charles had married in 1847 and by 1851 had established himself as a printer with a business in New St, Birmingham. In the 1851 census his younger brother Robert was living with him as an errand boy and his younger sister Sarah, who was about 12, was also living with him and was attending school. Samuel (born in Hanley abt 1829) was living with his uncle George Lunn at Fladbury and working with him as Assistant Miller. Margaret Mary was attending the Blue Coat School in Birmingham as a charity student and baby of the family Kezia was housed at the Wanstead Infants Orphan Asylum.

 By 1861 Charles, who must have somewhat recovered from his mental illness, was living in Birmingham where he was described as a 'visitor' in the home of Catherine Bishop a retired Laundress. Charles was listed a 'printer' but he was not working with his son Charles, who had by this time, moved back to Hanley in Staffordshire and was working as a printer there. Maybe Charles senior took over the Birmingham business, but it may also have been wishful thinking as the census shows his age as being dramatically understated by about 20 years! Margaret Mary and Kezia both joined their brother Samuel with Uncle George Lunn at Fladbury. Margaret worked as a dressmaker and Kezia as a nurserymaid.

In 1868 there are further signs of Charles' mental deterioration. He posts odd advertisements in Birmingham papers for a pamphlet called "Trial Trip or The Way to Heaven". He also posts a poignant request for tidings of his son Charles the printer and Samuel 'believed to be in distant lands. Samuel was actually very distant by this stage, having died in 1865. Charles senior calls himself the proprietor of the 'Birmingham Medicated Dispensary and physician to the Press". In 1869, he was remanded for causing a public nuisance in New St, Birmingham. This was near where his son Charles had once had his printing business. The Ari's Birmingham Gazette printed an article about his court hearing, with a partial transcript. It appears from this that the police and the courts in Birmingham were very familiar with Charles and his ramblings. He was remanded for several days until he was less "excited' and then released.

By the time the 1871 census came around, Charles had moved to Aston, where he described himself as a 'dealer in pens and pencils'. The last information I have managed to find about Charles is a death record for a Charles Sheaf in 1879 at Macclesfield in Cheshire. I have sent away for his death certificate to confirm my theory, but I suspect his death to have occurred at the Cheshire County Asylum; a not surprising end to this sad life.

Edited 16 Jan 2016:
I have now received the death certificate for poor Charles and he did indeed die at the County Lunatic Asylum, Parkside, Macclesfield on 12th July 1879. His cause of death is recorded as general senile decay and congestion of the lungs.

52 in 52

This year I have challenged myself to write about one ancestor per week for the entire year. This may be overambitious but I sincerely hope I can make a decent job of it!

I have no particular criteria for the people I will choose. It may be that I find them interesting or perhaps I will simply document what I know about a mysterious ancestor in the hope that I will attract the attention of someone who knows more than I do! Sometimes I might choose an ancestor for whom I have solved a knotty research problem - always very satisfying don't you think?

Anyway, that being said, it is time to start.....