Sunday 28 October 2018

Week 43 - Cause of Death

Although there are lots of missing weeks, I am going to try to gradually fill them out.  In addition, I am going to start a parallel blog that will be more my chance to write about ancestors as I discover them (rather than taking a theme) or they come up in my research or discussions, events I have attended, and other relevant genealogy topics that I just fancy writing about.

This week's theme is Cause of Death.  I am going to write about two of my ancestors whose death certificates contained more unusual causes of death.

Firstly George Harding (my 4xgreat-grandfather) who lived in Broughton Gifford, Wiltshire.  The relationship to George is via my maternal grandmother, her mother Emma Elizabeth Garfoot (see several other blogs about Emma), her mother Ann Harding, her father also George Garfoot and hence to his father, the George being discussed today.

George was baptised on 15 August 1764 in Melksham, Wiltshire and his parents were Jeremiah Harding and Olive Keen.  In the 1851 census, he gave his place of birth as Broughton Gifford, Wiltshire so it's not clear if he was born there or if he just spent most of his life there.  He married Ann Russell on 2 August 1792 in Broughton Gifford.  They had at least five children: Jeremiah (1793-1860 - never married), Mary (1795-1876 - never married), John (1796-1875 - married Mary Norris then Elizabeth Comely), Jane (1804-1885 - never married) and George (1808-1886 - married Sarah Comley then Michal Knee).  George senior was a carpenter and wheelwright.

George lived a long life and died on 30 November 1853.  His death certificate gave his age as 90 and his cause of death is one of my favourites.  It is given as 'Visitation of God'.

Secondly at the other end of the scale was Thomas Lageu (my 3xgreat grandfather).  The relationship to Thomas is via my paternal grandmother, her mother Ethel Hudson Smith, her mother Caroline Lageu and hence to her father Thomas Lageu.  

Thomas Lageu was baptised on 30 September 1831 at St Mary's, Reading, Berkshire and his parents were Thomas Lageu and Frances Holloway.  He married Caroline Jones on 16 June 1869 at St George Hanover Square, London.  They had at least seven children: Caroline (1860-? - married Frederick William Norman Smith), Thomas (1861-?), Charles (1862-1905 - married Minnie Lewington), George (1864-?), William (1866-1875), Henry (1869-1869) and Francis (1869-1869).  Thomas Lageu was a licenced victualler and ran a number of pubs around London - there will be a future blog about his career.  The final pub he ended up at was the Two Black Boys on Well Street, Hackney, London.  It was there that he died on 30 January 1873.  When I first ordered his death certificate, I was still investigating who his parents were and trying to see if there was a family member who was the informant.  What I read was more shocking - the cause of death was 'Violently self-cut throat of unsound mind'.  

An article in The Borough of Hackney Express and Shoreditch Observer on 1 February 1873 stated:
The neighbourhood of South Hackney was on Thursday night thrown into a state of some excitement at the discovery that Mr. League, the landlord of the "Black Boy" public-house in Well-street, had committed suicide by cutting his throat.  The fatal occurrence took place about 9 o'clock.  The police and a medical man were at once called in, but medical aid was of no avail and the unfortunate man died soon after the painful discovery was made.  The deceased has, we understand, been confined to his bed for some time, and has suffered a good deal, and it appears that he committed the fatal act during the momentary absence of those who were attending upon him.

A further article stated in the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette on the same day stated:
On Thursday evening about nine o'clock, Mr. Thomas Lague, the landlord of the Black Boy, Well-street, Hackney, cut his throat in a frightful manner with a razor and expired shortly afterwards.  The deceased gentleman who was 41 years of age had been confined to his bed by illness for some considerable time.

A further article in that paper a week later on 8 February reported on the inquest:
The inquest on Mr. Thomas Lague, of the "Black Boy", Well-street, Hackney, was held at that house, before Mr. J. Humphreys, coroner, on Monday last.  The evidence proved that the deceased had been for a long time suffering from a painful disease, and, during the absence of the nurse, he obtained possession of a razor, with which he inflicted the injuries on his throat, which resulted in almost immediate death.  The jury brought in a verdict of suicide whilst in a state of unsound mind.

All in all quite a sad way to go - especially noting he left five young children and his wife had died a few years earlier.  There will be a further blog on their adoption following his death.

So these are two very different causes of death within my family.

Sunday 13 May 2018

Week 19 - Mother's Day

This week's #52ancestors theme is 'Mother's Day' as the USA and Canada celebrate it this weekend.  So I am going to write about an amazing mother who raised a family of nine children by herself; my great-grandmother Emma Elizabeth Garfoot.  

Emma was born on the 6 August 1874 in Bow, Middlesex to John and Ann (nee Harding) Garfoot.  She grew up in Bow although in the 1881 census she was staying with her aunt Elizabeth Watts (nee Garfoot - John's sister) in Wymering, Hampshire.  At some point in the 1880s, the family moved to Peterborough where John continued his job as a railway guard.  Sadly in 1889, John died and Emma and her sister Mary Ann (known as Polly) were left with their mother Ann.  

On 1 February 1899, Emma married John George Braybrook (see Week 2 for details of the wedding).  They had nine children:

  • Hilda Elizabeth Annie - born 2 June 1900
  • Minnie Victoria (known as Tweet) - born 6 December 1901
  • Florence Margaret - born 2 June 1904
  • Lucy Mary - born 29 January 1906
  • Bertha Helen - born 30 December 1907
  • John George Robert Garfoot (known as Jack) - born 29 November 1909
  • Evelyn Ruth - born 18 March 1912
  • Muriel Nellie (my grandmother) - born 17 January 1915
  • Benjamin Victor - born 7 October 1917

This was captured in a Family Record that had probably been removed from a bible and was given to me by Auntie Tweet.

Sadly John Braybrook never knew his youngest son as John died on 20 March 1917 leaving Emma to bring up a family of nine up by herself.  I grew up knowing a number of my great aunts and uncles and have to say Emma must have done an excellent job to bring up a group of independent and kind people.

The photo below was taken on the same day as the one at the start of this article with the children lined up in age order (youngest at the front).

 Ben, Mu, Evelyn, Jack, Bertha, Lucy, Gar, Tweet, Hilda

Sunday 11 February 2018

Week 6 - Favourite Name

It's week 6 of #52ancestors and this week's theme is 'Favourite Name'.  I mentioned my favourite name in Week 3 - Longevity.  It's Repentance O'Briant - however as she is a major brick wall there isn't much more to write about her.  Therefore I'm going to talk about what is often the most frustrating surname - Smith - but which for me was a favourite name for the combination of names with my Smiths - or rather it should be but mysteries still remain.

My great-grandmother was Ethel Hudson Smith (1883-1957).  This middle name made her much easier to find when I first started to research.  Ethel was the mother of my father's mother Joan Ethel Blanche Leggatt (1914-1993).  I love this photograph of Ethel with her two children (Bill and Joan).  Their brother Charles Edward Barry Leggatt (1912-1913) sadly died young.

Ethel Smith was born on 23 August 1883 at 20 Cranswick Road, Rotherhithe, Surrey.  Her parents were Frederick William Norman Smith (more about him later) and Caroline Lageu (and I imagine there will be a Lageu family blog at some point soon as there are lots of stories).  In the 1891 and 1901 census, she was living with her family at 136 Southwark Park Road.  Ethel was the eldest of seven children.  Her siblings were:
  • Amy Anna Rolfe Smith (her father's mother's surname was Rolfe) - she was born in about 1885 and married James Garfield Mitchell and ended up living in Shropshire.
  • Carrie Lageu Smith who sadly only lived for seven months and is buried with her grandparents (Caroline's parents) in Nunhead Cemetery (see my blog for Deceased Online for more information).
  • Frederick Alfred Lageu Smith - he was born on 17 September 1888 and moved to British Columbia, Canada.
  • Clarice Smith - she was born in 1890 and married twice, first to John Pattrick then to Frederick Percival Cattlin.  She ended up living in Sussex near Hove.
  • Hugh Norman Smith - he was born 1892 however, other than marrying Annie Whittington in 1920 near Marylebone, I have not been able to find out anything about his adult life.  It may be time to order his marriage certificate to hunt for clues.
  • Edna Georgina Wells Smith - she was born in 1899 and died as a spinster in 1968 near Brighton, Sussex.  However interestingly she chose to change her name to Edna Georgina Wells Healey in 1948. It is not clear why she made this decision and that remains yet another mystery from this family.
Ethel Hudson Smith married James Leggatt on 4 July 1908 in Margate, Kent.  She is pictured here sitting with her husband and family as well as friends (we think rather than family) where they regularly went sailing on the Norfolk Broads.

She lived a privileged life and enjoyed many parties and events as the wife of a stock broker.  Here is me wearing her cloak from the 1920s at a recent 1920s ball.

Ethel Leggatt (nee Smith) died on 4 January 1957 in Birmingham where she had been living with her daughter Joan and her family including my father who remembers her well.

The mystery for a number of years was where the Hudson came from.  I had researched back a couple of generations but there was no paper trail to a Hudson.  Then her autograph book (which had become Joan's) was passed on to me.  In the book was the inscription 'Love from your affectionate grandmother A. Hudson'.  However I had no record of a grandmother of either Ethel or Joan that had the surname Hudson.  The mystery was solved when I discovered that Ethel's mother Caroline Lageu was adopted (via legal guardianship papers) following her parents' deaths.  Her guardians were Alfred and Ann (nee Hurst) Hudson and hence Ann (who lived until 1917) who signed the autograph book would have known to Ethel as her grandmother throughout her childhood and into her early adulthood.

Ethel's father was Frederick William Norman Smith (1852-1934).  It would appear that Norman is likely to be a family surname passed through the family.  Frederick was born on 8 November 1852 in St Mary Elms, Ipswich, Suffolk.  His parents were Frederick William Keane Smith (1816-1901) (are you seeing a pattern?) and Martha Charlotte Rolfe (c. 1818-1887).  Both of Frederick's parents hold a mystery in our family.  Frederick William Keane Smith was baptised on 5 January 1817 in East Ilsley, Berkshire and his mother was given as Sarah Smith, a servant.  No father was mentioned.  On his marriage certificate to Martha, Frederick's father is given as William Smith, a gentleman.  As you can imagine this leaves a nice big brickwall - however I am hoping at some point with the naming convention that the surname Keane will help solve the brick wall.  The naming convention a generation down still poses a mystery too.  Norman is Martha Charlotte Rolfe's great grandmother's surname however as she was also illegitimate (her father was given as Thomas Hills on her marriage certificate and one of the two possible Thomas Hills had a mother whose surname was Norman).  Basically this is a mystery with lots of things to solve - any ideas more than welcome.

Sunday 4 February 2018

Week 5 - In the Census

It's Week 5 of #52ancestors and the theme this week is 'In the Census'.  As a mathematician, I enjoy statistics so am going to give a couple of statistics behind my family in the census.

In England and Wales, censuses have been taken every ten years since 1841.  There are earlier ones but the records were not systematically kept and the level of detail collated was a lot lower.  All censuses up to 1911 have been made available to the public and scanned.

I have calculated how many direct line ancestors I have in each census:

1841 - 69 ancestors
Oldest ancestor William Hudson (5xgt grandfather on Leggatt line) aged 76 in Wingham, Kent; youngest Ann Harding (2xgt grandmother on Braybrook line) aged 2 in Broughton Gifford, Wiltshire
1851 - 71 ancestors
Oldest ancestor George Harding (4xgt grandfather on Braybrook line) aged 90 in Broughton Gifford, Wiltshire; youngest ancestor James Thomas Leggatt (2xgt grandfather) aged 1 in Lambeth, Surrey
1861 - 54 ancestors
Oldest ancestor Thomas Dixon (4xgt grandfather on the Benjamin line) aged 81 in Yate, Gloucestershire; youngest ancestor Caroline Lageu (2xgt grandmother) aged 1 in the Strand, London
1871 - 41 ancestors
Oldest ancestor Ann Dyer (nee Packer - 4xgt grandmother on Benjamin line) aged 83 in Iron Acton, Gloucestershire; youngest ancestor Caroline Lageu aged 11 in Charlton, London
1881 - 41 ancestors
Oldest ancestor George Harding (3xgt grandfather on Braybrook line) aged 73 in Broughton Gifford, Wiltshire; youngest ancestor James Leggatt (gt grandfather) aged 2 in Lewisham, Kent
1891 - 34 ancestors
Oldest ancestor Robert Tuffs (3xgt grandfather on Bennett line) aged 82 in Terrington St Clement, Norfolk; youngest ancestor Ethel Hudson Smith (2xgt grandmother on Leggatt line) aged 7 in Bermondsey, Surrey
1901 - 26 ancestors
Oldest ancestor Frederick William Keane Smith (3xgt grandfather on Leggatt line) aged 84 in Warblington, Hamphire; youngest ancestor Ethel Hudson Smith aged 17 in Bermondsey, Surrey
1911 - 21 ancestors
Oldest ancestor John Dixon (3xgt grandfather on Benjamin line) aged 91 in Yate, Gloucestershire; youngest ancestor still Ethel Hudson Smith now Leggatt aged 27 in Grove Park, Kent
There are only three ancestors who were actually alive to appear in all the censuses from 1841 to 1911.

The first is Ann Harding (1838-1915) who was my mother's, mother's, mother's mother.  She was born in 1838 in Broughton Gifford, Wiltshire.  She lived in Broughton Gifford (1841 & 1851), London (1861, 1871 & 1881) and   Peterborough, Northamptonshire (1891, 1901 & 1911).

The second is John Dixon (1820-1911) who was my mother's, father's, mother's, father's father.  He was born in about 1820 in Yate, Gloucestershire.  He lived in Yate for every one of the census returns.

The third is Ann Hurst (1822-1917) who was my father's, mother's, mother's, mother's adoptive mother.  She was born in 1822 in St Peters in Thanet, Kent. She lived in St Peters (1841), Bermondsey (1861 to 1901) and Margate (1911).  I have still not found her or her husband Alfred Strivens Hudson in the 1851 census.  There is always a mystery to solve in family history.

Sunday 28 January 2018

Week 4 - Invite to Dinner

It's Week 4 of #52ancestors and this week's theme is 'Invite to Dinner'.  I'm not sure if this was an invite or if my great-great grandfather applied to attend but this event came to mind given this theme.
When I first started researching, I was lucky that my grandmother Muriel Nellie Braybrook (1915-2004), known as Gran-Gran, had been given a couple of letters by her mother which she passed on to me.  One of them talked of a banquet and it is this 'dinner' that I am writing about.
The letter is below and was written by John Garfoot (1846-1889), Muriel's grandfather, and was written to his wife Ann Garfoot (nee Harding) (1838-1915).  The letter was written from 4 Norman Road (which was their residence in Bow, London) on Monday 23 June 1879.  It is thought that Ann and her two daughters were staying with John's family in Rutland.

The letter wrote about his life in London:
Dear Wife,
I trust these few lines will find you and all at home quite well and enjoying yourselves, I am quite well, but _______________.  Tiger has been found dead in the street, it is supposed he was poisoned, there is a man in the street strongly suspected of the deed, for Mr. Unstead's other cat came home and died, and there are others as well.  The weather still keeps very unsettled, by the looks of the crops, I do not think the farmers will be over done with straw whatever they are with corn, there are some very good crops of peas about.  I was at Uncles yesterday they are quite well, and Lousia was to stay as long as she liked if her relations wished her to.  They had a letter from Tel - she was quite well but busy.
The paper I sent to father last Thursday contained the account of a banquet at the Bow & Bromley Institute, at which I had the honour of being present and the pleasure of hearing a most interesting speech from the lips of the Right Hon. Sir Stafford Northcote Chancellor of the Exchequer.  In Friday's news he would have the sad account of the death of the Prince Imperial, the only son of his mother and she a widow living in exile.  These unfortunate news touches the hearts of most Englishmen who have read and know anything of the history of the family.
I don't know that I have more to say this time hoping to hear that you and the children are getting on nicely.
Please give my love to dear Father & Mother and the rest kiss the dear children for me tell them they went without their pig and its going rotten.  Chicken all alive.
Love from your affect. Husband J Garfoot
Mr. Spink's ask to let another week's rent go.

The banquet that John Garfoot describes was written about in a number of newspapers that I have found at the British Newspaper Archive (
The first item from the East London Observer on Saturday 7 June 1879 was an advertisement for the banquet.
The report of the event even reached Scotland as the Dundee Courier reported the event on Thursday 19 June 1879.


It was clearly quite a privilege to attend and gives an interesting insight into life at that time.

In terms of the rest of the letter, 'Uncle' I think is George Reeve (who married John's aunt Marianne Garfoot (1827-1905)). He was a beer retailer at the Lock Tavern, York Road, Walworth which is an area of London south of the river.  Their daughter Louisa would have been 17 in 1879 and was clearly away with relations.  However I have not been able to work out who 'Tel' was.
I love how this letter gives a wonderful insight into the family's life and feel very lucky to have been given it so early in my research.

Monday 22 January 2018

Week 3 - Longevity

The theme for Week 3 of #52ancestors is ‘Longevity’.  The obvious person to talk about this week is my 4x great grandmother Kezia Jenkins (nee Smith).  Her death certificate gave her age as 104 when she died on 20 February 1870 of ‘Natural Decay’.

This was accompanied by a number of newspaper articles.  The Hampshire Telegraph on 2 March 1870 stated (noting they got the death date wrong):

JENKINS – On 26th ult., at Gurnard, Cowes, Kezia, widow of the late Mr. James Jenkins, of Duke’s Farm, aged 104 years.

The Hampshire Advertiser on 26 February 1870 wrote the following item:

DEATH OF A CENTENARIAN.  On Sunday “old Mrs Jenkins”, as she was generally called, died at Gurnard, near this town, at the advanced age of 104.  Born in the year 1766, or six years after George III came to the Crown, she lived through his long and eventful reign, and saw the fourth George and the fourth William seated on the throne of England, and by the time she was 71 years of age our present Sovereign, Her most gracious Majesty, took the reins of power.  Another such a life would have taken us back almost to the days of Cromwell.  Such lives as these are very rare, but one cannot help thinking that if the old lady who is now gone and whom death seemed so long to have forgotten had only had the means of information we now have, how very entertaining a history would hers have been of incidents that had happened that she could recollect long before our fathers were born or our grandsires had emerged from boyhood.  Her recollections, from the sphere in which she lived, were, however, purely local, and as such were only of interest to those who were endeared to her by ties of relationship.

In addition, a local book on Cowes (Cowes & Northwood Isle of Wight 1750-1914 Book 3 by Rosetta Brading) stated:

1870 – Grannie Jenkins of Gunnard died in her 106th year.

Her burial was on 24 February 1870 at Northwood parish church near Cowes, Hampshire and again gave her age as 104 years.  If she was 104 when she died, she would have been born in 1765 or early 1766.

So the big question is, was she really as old as 104 which would have probably made her one of the oldest living person in the UK at that time?  The evidence I have for Kezia is limited however it does point to her having exaggerated her age over the years.

Unfortunately she (and the rest of her family) are missing from the 1861 census.  It was the year that enumerators were paid poorly and there is a high likelihood that they could not be bothered to walk up to the farm (Dukes Farm, Gunard, Isle of Wight, Hampshire) that she lived at with her son William (1820-1903) and his family.  None of the family nor an entry for Dukes Farm can be found despite a manual search through the census returns.

In the 1851 census, Kezia was recorded as being 80.  This would mean she was born in 1770 or 1771.

In the 1841 census, Kezia was recorded as being 75 – noting that the instruction was to round down your age, this would mean she was born between 1760 and 1766.

Kezia Smith was married in 1814 to James Jenkins at Saint Mary’s, Portsea, Hampshire.  If born in 1765, she have been 49 at her marriage – this is old to be married for the first time, noting she is given as a Spinster on the marriage record.

She then had three children James (baptised in 1814), Mary Ann (baptised in 1816 – she married Joseph Richards and was my 3xgreat grandmother) and William (baptised in 1820).  From census returns and other records, these dates of baptism are consistent with their dates of birth.  This would have made her between the ages of 49 and 55 when she had her children.  This seems very unlikely.

The only clue to Kezia’s place of birth is from the 1851 census.  Ancestry had transcribed her place of birth as Eversley, Wiltshire. Even though Eversley is in Hampshire, in my naivety, I trawled the parish registers for Eversley and could not find a Kezia Smith being baptised in the date range 1765 to 1790.  This was left as a brick wall for a number of years.  With much more experience, I returned to this brick wall and looked at the original image for her place of birth in detail.  So even though it looked correct at a first glance, it was then that I realised it was Everley without the ‘s’.  Everley, just over the border in Wiltshire, is normally spelt Everleigh but it is not uncommon to be heard by the enumerator and written down with either spelling.  This is also a better fit as in the 1841 census her place of birth is recorded as not in Hampshire (e.g. ‘N’ in ‘Born in County’ column).

I then did a search through the Everleigh parish registers for the same date range and found only one Kezia Smith who was baptised on 7 June 1780.  She had a sister Jemima who was baptised on the same day.  Her parents were John Smith and Repentence O’Briant (one of the most unusual family names) and they were married on 25 December 1773 in Collingbourne Kingston, Wiltshire.  They had two other children; Elizabeth baptised in 1775 and Thomas baptised in 1778.  This means it is unlikely Kezia was born any early than about 1779.

So assuming she was born in 1780 rather than 1765/6, she would have been 34 at her marriage and aged between 34 and 40 at the time her children were born.  This is older than most parents but is much more realistic.  It would have meant she was about 90 at her death which is still very old for 1870 but not quite so newsworthy as 104.

I continue to build up evidence for her life and look for further proof but I feel relatively sure I have found the correct Kezia.
Footnote: Kezia is related to me through my father, whose father Percy James Bennett was the subject of Week 1.  His mother was Florence Richards and her father was Joseph Richards.  His mother was Mary Ann Jenkins who was Kezia's daughter.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Week 2 - Favourite Photo

The theme this week (which is now last week) is 'Favourite Photo'.  The photo below is one of my favourite family history photos - kindly copied from the original held by my mum's cousin Ba.

This wedding day photo was taken on 1 February 1899 in Fletton, Peterborough, Northamptonshire.  The wedding was between John George Braybrook (1877-1917) and Emma Elizabeth Garfoot (1874-1949).  They were my great grandparents on my mother's side.  They had nine children including Muriel Nellie (my grandmother) and Evelyn Ruth (Ba and Gill's mother).

I have been able to identify a number of the people in the photo but there are still mysteries.  I have an idea of who would have attended but have not managed to find a report of the wedding that may include names of who attended.

To the right of the bride (looking at the photo) is her uncle William Springthorpe Garfoot (1859-1945).  I suspect that he gave away the bride as Emma's father had died ten years earlier following an accident in the railway yards in 1889.  I think his elder daughter Bessie Garfoot (1891-1973) is the girl in white on the left at the front.  His younger daughter Florence was only 1 year old so is not there.  His wife Hannah Hollis (1854-1917) may be in the photo but no idea who.

The bride's mother Ann Garfoot (nee Harding, 1838-1915) is on the second row from the front on the right hand side almost looking tucked away.  The bride's eldest sister Mary Ann Thompson (1871-1941) known as Polly is on the back row, sixth from the left.  I think her daughter Annie Francis Helen Thompson (1893-1981) known as Nell is the other girl in white on the front row.  Polly's husband had died in 1894.  The bride's grandfather Robert Jarvis Garfoot (1824-1902) is on the back row on the far right I think.

The groom's parents George Braybrook (1845-1916) and Elizabeth Ann Coley (1845-1914) are on the back row seventh and eighth from the left respectively.

These are the main relations that I have easily identified.  There are a few more that I suspect who they are but I am really hoping that at some point a newspaper article about the wedding will be found that will help identify who was there on the day.  If anyone knows who any of the other people are, I would welcome ideas.

One of the reasons I love this photo is that on first glance it looks quite a posh location.  However, when looking carefully you can see the corrugated iron building behind the backing cloth as well as hay on the ground.