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.

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