Thursday, October 20, 2016

My Dear Pollie -- Clues from a Family Bible

Here's the problem with family Bibles: invaluable as they can be for genealogy, we usually don't have the one we need. Great-Grandma's Bible may have been passed down to some second cousin that we don't even know about. It's the same thing with old letters or diaries. It takes some good fortune for them to land in our hands.

Mary Ann Tidball's Bible
I've been lucky only once.My wife's cousin didn't even know she had an old family Bible until she starting cleaning out an attic, but when she found it, she knew who to call. The Bible she found had apparently belonged to Mary Ann Tidball, nee Lee -- the cousin's great-grandmother.  Yes, that would be my wife's great-grandmother, too. An inscription inside the front cover reads:

M. A. Lee:

With best wishes from her loving grandmother

March 30th, 1878

On a facing page, another inscription reads:

Mary Price, my dear grandmother, gave me this bible on my 18th birthday. She died in 1882 at Colston’s Almshouse on St. Michael’s Hill. When she died, she was the oldest but one on the premises. She was respected by all who knew her. Buried at Arno’s Vale Cemetery, Bath Rd., Bristol.

A small card found in the bible has a handwritten note:

For dear Pollie

With love and best wishes from her loving “Mother”

March 30, 1878

Immediately below on the same card, in different handwriting, is:

This is the card I got when my grandmother gave me the bible on my 18th birthday.

Pollie was likely a nickname for Mary. Presumably, Mary Price was the married name of Mary Ann Lee’s maternal grandmother. However, if Mary Ann Lee was born in 1862 as he death certificate and other records indicate, March 20, 1878, would only have been her 16th birthday. Her death certificate states she was born in Bristol, but English 1871 and 1881 census records say she was born in Melksham, Wilstshire, about 25 miles east of Bristol. A civil registration record of her birth has not been found, so the facts regarding her birth remain at-large.

Still, the inscriptions were invaluable because they placed the Tidball and Lee families squarely in Bristol, and opened the door for Price research. 

1881 Census of England

Indeed, the 1881 census for the Colston’s Almshouse listed Mary Price, age 81, born in Cardigan. She had lived there at least 10 years, as evidenced by her listing in the 1871 census for the same almshouse, where she was apparently single and a recipient of alms. Her 1882 death registration gives her age as 77, so there remains some doubt about when she was born. The informant for the death registration was “Eleanor Lee, daughter.” The registration reported that Mary was the widow of Charles Price, a dairyman.

Charles probably died before 1871, when the census recorded Mary as a 72 year-old widower. Charles was involved in the dairy business, but his occupational status is unclear. The 1861 census found 74 year-old Charles Price, a “milkman,” and Mary Price, 63, at 7 Stubbs Court in St. Paul’s, Bristol. Charles Price told the census taker he was born in Llanigon, Breconshire. Mary said she was born in Cardigan, Cardiganshire. Price (ap Rhys) is a common Welsh name.

The couple has not been found in the 1851 census.The Price family does appear in 1841 on Dale Street in the St. Paul’s district of Bristol. Charles was a milkman. Charles and Mary had three children: Ellen, 4, Elizabeth, 3, and Mary, 1, all born in Gloucestershire. This suggests the family came to Bristol by 1837 or before. The birth of Mary, and possibly Elizabeth and Ellen, should have been recorded in civil registration records, but searches have not found them. (Civil registration of births began in 1837, but non-compliance was not uncommon).

Granddaughter Mary Ann Lee was the key to following the Prices in Bristol. Nineteen year-old Mary Ann Lee was not living with her mother and brothers in St. Philip and Jacob in 1881. “Mary A. Lee,” 19, born in Melksham, Wiltshire, was living with the George Pocock family across the river in Bedminister. The census identified Mary as a niece to George, implying Mary’s Ann’s mother was a sibling of either George or his wife Elizabeth. In fact, George Pocock married Elizabeth Price of Newfoundland Street in Bristol 22 November 1857. The marriage registration states that Elizabeth was the daughter of Charles Price, a dairyman. Eleanor and Elizabeth were, indeed, Price sisters.

Oh, yes, Colston's Almshouse still stands int the center of Bristol on St. Michael's Hill.
Colston's Almshouse, St. Michael's Hill, Bristol. J. H. Fonkert photo, 2009.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Distracted Genealogist

It was a dark and stormy night...

No, that was another writing project. My last Four Generations blog was some six weeks ago. Vacation "Up North" was a good excuse for a short pause. Then, frantic preparations for the North Star Genealogy Conference extended the pause into a hiatus. Then post-conference lethargy set-in, combined with the mind-rattling distraction of presidential politics. Oh yes, I also had a journal to edit.

But, I'm back! I will resume blogging about the English Tidball family this Thursday. I think the Tidballs are good for a few more blog posts, and then I'll need to think about what branch to crawl out on next.

I might decide to ruminate about the relationship between traditional documentary research and DNA. Mind you, I am not even close to being an expert, but I have been learning as I work through a real world research problem.  Stay tuned.

There's more to life than genealogy, but life would be less fun without genealogy.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

What about Mary Ann?

Last week, we saw how shifting names can make it hard to follow a family in the census – in this case, the Census of England. Attention to occupation and children’s names, combined with searches in birth registration indexes, led to the John, aka Bartholomew, Lee family in Dorset. This week, we follow a similar strategy to track down Mary Ann Lee, who was not with her mother in 1881 as expected.

Bartholomew Lee’s youngest child, Laurence, was born in August 1869 in Bristol. So, Bartholomew (did anyone call him “Bart?”) was likely still in Bristol in early 1869. But as noted in last week’s post, he was absent by the time of the 1871 census – presumably off to America, possibly in search of gold.

His wife, Eleanor – the former Eleanor Elizabeth Price – supported her young family from what she could earn as a charwoman. At home with their mother was William, 13; Mary A., 9; Charles, 6, and Laurence, 1.  Eleanor’s 7-year old son, John, was living with Eleanor’s parents. As far as is known, Bartholomew never returned. The family believes he died in America, possibly in New Orleans, but he has never been found in American records, alive or dead.

The family situation had changed again by 1881. Widow Eleanor was living in Flooks Court in the St. Philip and Jacob district of Bristol. She was a tailoress. With her were her three sons: John, 18, Charles, 16, and Laurence, 12. This Charles was born about 1865 in Trowbridge. The Charles born in Weymouth had apparently died young, but his death registration has not been found.

Mary Ann Lee did not marry John Tidball until 1884. Where was she in 1881? A good candidate was a Mary A. Lee, 19 and born in Melksham, living in the home of George Pocock in Bedminister, across the river from Bristol. The census identified her as a niece of George Pocock. If a niece, she could have been a daughter of either George’s sister or of his wife Elizabeth’s sister. Indeed, Elizabeth Pocock was Eleanor Lee’s sister. Elizabeth Lee married George Pocock 22 November 1857 in Bristol. Witnesses were Elizabeth’s brother-in-law Bartholomew Lee and a woman named Sarah Laver. Marriage registrations indicate that both Elizabeth and Eleanor were daughters of Charles Price.

This blog post is being written on the edge of the wilderness along the North Shore of the world’s largest freshwater lake, so it has been hurriedly assembled. There just isn’t enough time or internet bandwidth to insert images of any of these people, or the census and civil registration records that would illustrate the path of discovery.  Next week is week 2 of vacation, so no promises that a post will be written, but rest assured, there is more Tidball family history to come. In the meantime, I'm off to Honeymoon Rock to watch the sun set.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Bartholmew, Where art Thou?

A completely undocumented family story  states that Bartholomew Lee left his family in England for the gold rush in America -- which gold rush is not clear.

Bartholomew Lee was John Tidball's father-in-law. Bartholomew, 21, married Eleanor Elizabeth Price, 21, 12 May 1857 in Bristol. Bartholomew Lee was the son of John and Hannah Lee. The Irish-born family was enumerated in the St. Augustine the Less district of Bristol in 1851. Bartholomew, 14 was a porter.

Jumping forward to the 1871 census, Bartholomew was indeed missing. Eleanor was living in St. Philip and St. Jacob, Bristol, with four children:
William J., 13, born Bristol
Mary A., 9, born Melksham, Wiltshire
            Chs., 6, born Trowbridge, Wiltshire
            Laurence, 1, born Bristol

 Another son of Bartholomew and Eleanor was living with Bartholomew’s parents in1871. John, age 7, born in Trowbridge, was enumerated as “grandson” in the household of John and Joanna Lee in St. James, Bristol. The census indicates John was born in Midleton and Joanna in Castle Martyr, allowing a confident conclusion that 7 year-old boy was a son of Bartholomew.

Bartholomew has never been found again in later records in England or the United States.

Stepping back again in time, the young family of Bartholomew and Eleanor should have been easy to find in 1861. With approximate birth dates from other records the somewhat unusual name Bartholomew, and Bartholomew's Irish origins, searchable online census indexes should have produced a fairly short list of candidate families.

Searches for Bartholomew Lee anywhere in England produced no good matches. Why not? Because, when the census-taker came, Bartholomew gave his name as “John.” John and "Ellen" Lee were living in Melcombe Regis in Dorset. The proof that John Lee was the same man as Bartholomew Lee came from the birth places of the family members and John’s occupation. As enumerated in the census, the family included:

            John Lee, 24, a porter, born in Ireland,
            Ellen, 24, born in Bristol,
            William, 3, born Bristol, and
            Charles, 1, born Weymouth.

In 1851, fourteen year-old Bartholomew Lee must have been a porter for the railroad. The clincher came from the birth registration of 1 year-old Charles. He was born 14 January 1860 to “Bartholomew” Lee and Eleanor, “formerly Price.” The father was a porter for the Great Western Railway.

The last traces of Bartholomew come from the birth of two more sons. John was born September 1863 in Melksham. Laurence was born August 1869 in Bristol So, Bartholomew was probably still in Bristol in early 1869, but off to America sometime in the next two years.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Snohomish Interlude

Rumors abound that the blogger fell into a Blog Hole, something like a black hole, and equally difficult to explain. Actually, I've been roaming the Pacific Northwest -- specifically the area from Seattle, north to Mt. Baker, east through North Cascades National Park, and south to Wenatchee on the Columbia. I have not seen Sasquatch, but have seen a wingless Boeing 737 fuselage on a flatbed rail car in Wenatchee on its way to the the Boeing assembly plant at Everett.

Genealogy is to blame for this trip.  The trip began with two fantastic days at the Northwest Genealogy Conference in Arlington, Washington. This is the third annual conference put on by the Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society. The headliners were Blaine Bettinger and Lisa Louise Cook. What a treat! There was an outstanding complement of other speakers, but I didn't get to hear them because I was busy giving four presentations myself.

After the conference closed on Saturday, I did attempt a small genealogy excursion. My wife's grandmother's sister drifted from Minnesota to Snohomish County, Washington. I don't know much about her life, but she died in Snohomish County in 1969.  From, I knew that she was buried in the G.A.R. Cemetery just outside the town of Snohomish. Thinking a G.A.R. cemetery in Washington was probably a small, walkable cemetery, I expected to easily find the grave. But, the cemetery was much larger than expected and it was a hot dry day. The grass burned to a crisp. The sun glared off the flat grave markers. The sections were not visibly numbered. The office was closed. There was no cemetery map. I did not find Kate Jackson or her husband, Samuel.

Monday took us north to Lynden, an area where Dutch immigrants first arrived in the late 1800s. Some Dutch folk from Siouxland (NW Iowa and adjoining parts of Minnesota and South Dakota) sought greener pastures in Whatcom County in the early 1900s. Among them was John Zylstra and his wife, Marie Zorgdrager. Marie was my Dad's cousin. I have misty memories of visiting their farm east of Lynden, near Sumas, in 1962 -- a trip centered on the Seattle World's Fair. John and Marie had five children, the youngest of them twin daughters who were just a year older than me. It dawns on me now that they were 2nd cousins!

I know nothing of what happened to the twins, but John died in 1990 and Marie in 1993. They are buried in a small cemetery at Nooksack, in the shadow of the Cascades. This gravestone I found.

I paid my respects -- although I'm not sure what that phrase means. I think it means I remembered them, however vaguely. I did not know them well, but they were important relatives to my Dad. I would like to find out what happened to the twins.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Once a Tidball, always as Tidball?

Once found in Bristol in the 1861 Census of England, the Tidball family was rather easily traced. You see, English civil registration records (1839-forward) and English church records (going back much farther) are a genealogist's dream.

William Tidball, 32, married Mary Ann Bisgrove, 29, 6 March 1855, at the parish church of St. Philip and Jacob in Bristol. The marriage registration names their fathers: Michael Tidball and William Bisgrove. Mary Ann, 41, died 9 May 1865 in the St. Philip and Jacob district. English death registrations did not record the parents or birthplaces of the deceased, but Mary Ann's registration did name her husband, William, a maltster's labourer.

William had four young children -- Elizabeth, Thomas, John, and Michael -- all age 10 and younger -- and needed a wife. Age 44, he married 40 year-old Elizabeth Selina Morrish 7 June 1866 in the parish church of St. Mary, Redcliff. She was the daughter of a shoemaker, Samuel Morrish.

The 1861 and 1871 censuses stated that William was born in Brushford. With the ages reported in the censuses and the marriage registrations, the target is a William born at Brushford about 1821-23. Actually, the target is a baptism record, because civil registration records date from only 1837.

Indeed, William, the son of Michael and Eleanor Tidboald, was baptized 14 April 1822 at Brushford. Tidboald, eh?

What about William's childhood and early adult years? The first Census of England in 1841 found William and seven younger siblings with their parents, Michael and Ellen, on East Nightcott Farm.

William enlisted at Bristol in the 34th Foot in October 1846, and was discharged April 1848.* In 1851, he was a servant a few miles away in the home of his Uncle Gregory at Poole Farm in Knowstone, Devon. He was 30 years old and single.

What happened to the rest of the Bristol Tidballs?  Elizabeth married Edward Jennet; she died in 1885 in St. George, Gloucestershire. Michael died in 1892 in St. Philip and Jacob, Bristol. William Tidball's second wife, Elizabeth, died 4 May 1892 in St. Philip and St. Jacob. William died 28 January 1899 -- supposedly only 73 years old.

Brushford, Somerset, parish church
On a trip to England in 2009, we attended "Mothering Day" Sunday services at Brushford. The Tidballs are not remembered there, but their presence was keenly felt.

The blogger will probably take a break from the Tidballs, or whoever they were, next week because he will be traveling to Arlington, Washington, to speak at the Northwest Genealogy Conference. One of his talks deal with DNA and the Fawkners -- remember them? If a blog gets written, it might well be a DNA research story.


*Depot Rolls of the 34th Foot (Cumberland) for the period 1838-1873,” transcription viewed at, October 2009. The author has not viewed the original depot roll. The transcription indicates William Tidball, 20 years, six months old, was born at Brushford. This would make his estimated birth date April 1826. The William Tidball that enlisted is believed to be the same man because only one William Tidball was baptized at Brushford during this time period.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Matching up the Minnesota Tidballs in the English Census

The Tidballs were from England -- that much was pretty certain. Some family history notes passed down to John Tidball stated that his grandfather John's parents were William Tidball and his first wife, Elizabeth. One note stated that William married Elizabeth about 1859. Grandfather John's death certificate stated that his father was "Wm." Tidball, but did not record his mother's name. It stated that he was born 30 March 1862. The death certificate for his brother, Thomas, said he was born 29 December 1859, but did not name his parents.

John Tidball, about 19 years old, should have been with his parents in 1881. The index of the 1881 census lists 24 William Tidballs, including a William with a wife, Elizabeth, living in Bristol. There was no son John listed, but there was a daughter, Jane, 18. Could "Jane" have been John, or was this the wrong family?

Thomas had emigrated in 1880, so the best chance to find the family intact was the 1871 Census of England. The William Tidball family enumerated in the St. Philip and Jacob district of Bristol was a good match -- even though William and Elizabeth seemingly had been able to slow down the aging process.
St. Philip and Jacob, Bristol
 St. Philip and Jacob, Bristol
St. Philip and Jacob Out, Bristol
William, 39
b. Brushford
William, 51
b. Somersetshire
William, 59
b. Brushford, Somerset
Mary Ann, 30
b. Somerset, Walton
Elizabeth, 50, b. Trowbridge, Wilts
Elizabeth 58
b. Trowbridge, Wilts
Elizabeth, 5
b. Bristol

Thomas, 11
b. Bristol
Thomas, 11,
b. Bristol

John, 8
b. St. George's, Gloucestershire
Jane, 18
b. St. George's, Gloucestershire

Michael, 6
b. Bristol
Michael, 16
b. Bristol
Source: Census of England, images viewed at

As censuses so often do, the 1861 census offered a surprise. Thomas was there, as well a previously unknown daughter, Elizabeth. (John was not yet born). But, William's wife was Mary Ann, born in Walton, Somerset. Apparently, Elizabeth was a second, not first, wife. William obviously married Elizabeth after 1861, raising a question of whether John Tidball's mother was Mary Ann or Elizabeth.

A family photo album passed down from John Tidball's wife, Mary Ann (not to be confused with William's 1861 wife, Mary Ann), helped make sense of the census. One photo was labeled "Michael Tidball -- brother." This was presumably the Michael born about 1865. Another photo of an older, not so handsome woman, with a child about 2 years old, carried a handwritten note: "Liz's baby and boys' stepmother." This was apparently William's second wife, stepmother to the younger boys -- Thomas and John -- but it is not immediately apparent who Liz's baby was.

Using the photo album and English civil registration records, the blogger will sort the family out next week, setting the stage to track the Tidballs back to Brushford, Somerset.