Saturday, 28 June 2014

52 Ancestors #2: Georgie Porgie Pudding & Pie...

Let's get this started with one of my favourites; not because he did anything particular spectacular but for the simple fact that he was the first 'real find'. The first ancestor that I was able to look over records and to some degree, understand his life, understand him, and feel emotionally connected. Dearest George.

George was my great grandfather. George Edward Stephan.

George was born 1866 in Broseley, Shropshire to George Stephan Nickless & Druscilla Vaughan Beard (now that's a name you don't heard very often!). He was one of 6 children (well 6 that I have been able to track down - one of those being a half sister from his Father's later marriage). There was George & Eustace (twins), Druscilla Jr, Beatrice Mary and Arthur. Clara was the half-sister.

George lost his twin brother Eustace in a house fire in 1870, at age 4.
His Mother Druscilla unfortunately died the same year from TB, 7months after giving birth to Arthur;
Then, and I assuming because his Father couldn't cope after the dreadful events they'd been put through, the family split up...

By the 1871 census, Druscilla (Jr) was living with her paternal Stephan grandparents, George with his maternal Beard Grandparents and Beatrice and Arthur with their Uncle & Auntie - the Yates'.

Worth noting that Eliza Yates was also the grandmother of George's wife to be (Hannah Haynes).

After some digging, I discovered Arthur was born in January 1870 - just before the death of George's mother in August 1870. (Druscilla Snr unfortunately died from TB which she contracted after giving birth).

Weirdly, there is an Arthur Stephan living with Beatrice and the Yates' family in 1871, but it states his age as 4; three years older than he would actually have been...

I have been unable to locate a death or subsequent location for Arthur. He is MIA ... what is it with Arthurs?!

In 1871 George was living with his Grandparents, Thomas (59yo) and Mary (57yo) Beard. His Father George was still living with them but then came the exciting 1881 census ... his Father had left but Georgie boy was aboard a barge and not any barge - A Severn Trow with his grandfather Thomas Beard!

"The sailing barges of the River Severn were known as "Trows" and hundreds of them once carried goods up and down the River Severn between Shrewsbury and Bristol, and along the coasts of Devon, Cornwall and South Wales"  - I A Recordings

'William' Severn Trow
The Trow that George worked aboard was called the 'William' and is infamous in the Shropshire area, as it is known to be one of the last working Severn Trows. A picture of it can be found at Blists Hill Museum (Ironbridge) alongside the exhibition of the restored 'Spry' Trow. From the known dates, it is likely that this is a photo of Thomas ('Bearded' at front!) and George to the left -although I can't be 100% sure!

George remained on the ship through the 1891 census and at some point between then and 1901, left the ship for the family pub. This is the family pub that previously, little old Beatrice had been living in alone (1891 census) until she got married.

To give a little background, George's sister Beatrice married William House and emigrated to America in 1900 and Druscilla married Alfred Potter and emigrated to Canada in 1911.

Now who is to say, given their separated childhood, that the siblings were close or even whether they saw each other? One can only speculate. Regardless, a split family was now truly split - by the Atlantic Ocean.

It appears that his Father George (Stephan Nickless) moved to Worcester and remarried to Fanny Mears having a daughter named Clara in 1877 when his 3 children were not even in their teens. 

George's family was now his grandparents.

But in 1900, George got married - to Hannah Marie Haynes and by 1901 they were living in the family Public House known as the General Gordon (also known as the Werps Inn due to it location).

The General Gordon is well known locally as a pub located in the Werps. The Werps was located opposite the former Coalport China Factory (now a Museum) on the River Severn but was sadly demolished during a slum clearance programme. You can see the pub at the back left of the photo - the white dormer building!
The Werps (opposite China Museum) 
The Werps - Tithe Map 1838
I recently discovered this rare photo of the pub - unfortunately it is stated as being taken in 1903 (Powell - Images of England South Telford) with the 'Potts' name over the door. George was shown at the pub in 1901 census, so one can only assume he moved shortly after marrying Hannah or the date is incorrect. At least it gives an idea of the type of property it was and its immediate setting.

General Gordon Pub - Henry Potts & Family

George went on to have, as far as I am aware, 5 children, all with Hannah Marie (nee Haynes).

1901 - Beatrice Georgina
1903 - Eustace Beard
1905 - George Victor  (my Grandad - aka Vic)
1907 - Leslie Vaughan
1911 - Arthur Gordon (my long lost Arthur)

Beatrice died in a house fire at age 4 - much the same was that George had lost his brother all that time ago and at the same age(!). This must of been very painful for George and one can only assume that this contributed to them leaving the Pub ... 

In 1911, I found Eustace living with his maternal family (the Haynes') - albeit that he is noted a "nephew" when I think he is actually the grandson (another story, another time...)

Unfortunately George lost his life in 1922, at the young age of 56 leaving behind 4 teenage sons and a wife. I will speak about them further another time.

George reminds me how important family is. He reminds me of how important it is to make time for them and never to take them for granted because there can come a time that you will be separated; whether this be permanently or simply by an Ocean.

I wish that he had been able to see his young boys grow up and help guide them; avoiding their separation later in life. I wish he had been able to see his grandchildren in very much the same way I wish that I had been able to meet my Grandad Vic (his son).

Time is always against us...

Thursday, 12 June 2014

52 Ancestors #1: Long Lost Arthur

Dearest Arthur; he missed you.

Arthur Gordon Stephan b.1911
When I say he, I mean my Grandfather.

I was celebrating my graduation with family when my Auntie brought along some family photos for my research. I mentioned my search for an Arthur STEPHAN and surprisingly she seemed to of heard of him. The only thing was, we were talking about different people!

I had been searching for an Arthur Stephan from the previous generation (my Grandads Uncle) who disappeared after the 1870 census.

My Auntie was talking about her Uncle (my Grandad's brother). This Uncle I knew nothing about.

My Aunt said that her Father told her that Arthur disappeared when they were quite young and he spent many years of searching for him - how handy the internet may have been for him!! My Grandfather sadly passed away in 1981 (before I was born) and had never been able to find Arthur.

My next mission had begun...

It was fairly evident that Arthur was born after the 1911 census as he wasn't listed with family (although this wouldn't be the first time I have had to 'collect' family members from other census records!). Given the birth dates of the other siblings, I first started sifting through the early 1900 birth records. I struck lucky fairly quickly but ordered the certificate to be sure.

Arthur Gordon Stephan was born to George Edward Stephan and Hannah (nee Haynes) in Madeley, Shropshire in 1911.

The next (and more difficult step) would be trying to locate his whereabouts thereafter. He would be 103 years old by now and the possibility of still being alive was slim. I stumbled across a couple of possibilities and just committed to ordering the death certificates. I was determined to get to the end of this mystery. I struck lucky again (well as lucky as a death certificate could be...) and found my Arthur. Arthur was mysteriously located in Milton Keynes!

Of course, a death certificate gives you very little insight into a persons life. After unsuccessful contact with the addresses given by the informant on the notice, I put an article in the local press. I was over the moon to hear back from Arthur's step-daughter!

Arthur had become part of her life quite late on (marrying her Mother in 1981 at the age of 70!) and she had some lovely things to say about him. A gentle giant that looked after and adored her Mum. She also provided me with the photo above; the only photo I have of Arthur.

I still wanted to know more; I still wanted to know why he ran away, where he went, what he did for work, why he never went home. What happened. Just so I could say I had tried for my Grandfather.

I then had contact from a local genealogist who had done a little digging (big thanks to Lewis McCann!) - he had managed to locate Arthur's youngest son.

Unfortunately this led to another cul-de-sac (I don't like the term dead end, at least you can walk back round and out of a cul-de-sac!). The son was born late in Arthur's life - there was 10 years between him and his older sisters and could remember little about his Father. He also had no photos... The tone of his email seemed to suggest that he wasn't overly keen on discussing the matter any further and I didn't want to push.

The next step is to try and locate the older sisters (Arthur's daughters). Its possible that the Isle of Wight may just be my next port of call...

I really must find out more for my Grandad. IOW County Press, here I come!