Thursday, October 27, 2016

Will the Real John and Johanna Lee Please Stand Up?

Burgeoning Bristol was a British Isles melting pot in the mid-1800s. The industrial revolution stoked manufacturing, which pulled workers from Southwest England, nearby Wales, and Ireland. Yes, migration is both a pull and push matter, and the Irish potato famine did some pushing. Bartholomew Lee, born about 1836 in Ireland, found work in Bristol as a railroad porter. The Lees first appear in Bristol in the 1851 Census of England. Bartholomew, already a porter at age 14, was living with his parents, John and Hannah in the St. Augustine The Less district of Bristol (see 2 September 2016 post). In 1857, he married Eleanor Price, daughter of a "dairyman" from Wales. They had a daughter and four sons before Bartholomew disappeared around 1870.

Bartholomew's final fate is unknown. Tracking his parents in Bristol also proved problematic. In 1851, John was 46 and Hannah was 43.

A search of the 1861 census found two candidates for John and Hannah:

St. Augustine, Bristol
John Lee, 54, born Ireland
Johanna, 46, born Ireland

St. Paul’s, Bristol
John Lee, 50, born Ireland
Johanna, 44, born Ireland

The first John Lee was close to the right age for Bartholomew’s father, but the first wife Johanna was too young. Based on age, the second couple was an even poorer match. Yet, as the table below illustrates, the second couple, living in St. Paul’s, probably were the parents of Bartholomew for two reasons:

- They had a son John, age 17, who was a good match for Bartholomew’s 7-year-old brother from 1851.
- The Lees in St. Augustine had children Margaret, 14, and James, 11, who did not appear as siblings of Bartholomew in 1851.

Looking back, the St. Augustine’s family was clearly the same family living on Waterloo Court in St. Augustine the Lessor in 1851. This John and Johanna Lee probably lived in the Bristol City Workhouse at Stapleton in 1871 and 1881.

The 1861 ages of Bartholomew’s parents were probably incorrectly reported or recorded. John and Johanna Lee lived on Earl Street in the St. James district in 1871, with recorded ages appropriate for the couple in 1851. They are clearly the correct Lees because their 7 year-old grandson John, born Trowbridge, was very likely the son born to Bartholomew Lee and Eleanor Price at Melksham in 1867. Trowbridge is about 5 miles from Melksham and on the same rail line.

The two families could be easily confused because both John Lees were mason’s labourers in 1851, both had wives named Johanna, both had daughters named Margaret, and both ended up living in public workhouses. As the table shows, the St. Augustine Lees, with their sons Edward and Maurice, were living in the workhouse at Stapleton in 1871. They were from Limerick. Bartholomew Lee’s parents were from Cork. His mother probably died before 1881, when widower John Lee was living in the Barton Regis Union Workhouse.

Bartholomew’s apparent London-born brother Stephen has not been located after 1861. His sister Margaret likely married, but is also unaccounted for after 1861. A London birthplace for Stephen is a bit of a mystery.

Two John Lee Families in Bristol
33 Host St.
St. Augustine the Less
Bristol [1]
8 Penn St.
St. Paul’s
Bristol [2]
3 Earl St.
St. James
Bristol [3]
Barton Regis Union Workhouse
Bristol [4]

John Lee, 46
Mason’s laborer,
b. Ireland-Cork
John Lee, 50
b. Ireland
John Lee, 66
Mason’s laborer
b. Middleton
John Lee, 66, widr
Mason’s laborer
b. Ireland

Hannah Lee, 43

b. Ireland-Cork
Johanna, 44
b. Ireland
Joanna Lee, 65

b. Castle Martyr

Margaret, 19
b. Ireland-Cork

Bartholomew Lee, 14
b. Ireland-Cork
[married, living in Weymouth, Dorset]

John Lee, 7
b. Ireland-Cork
John, 17
b. Ireland

Stephen, 3
b. London

John, 7
b.Trowbridge, Wilts

3 Waterlooo Court
St. Augustine the Less
Bristol [5]
3 Lower Lamb St.
St. Augustine
Bristol [6]
Bristol City Workhouse
Bristol [7]
Bristol City Workhouse
Bristol [8]
Bristol City Workhouse
Bristol [9]
John Lee, 43
Laborer (mason’s)
b. Ireland
John Lee, 54
b. Ireland
John Lee, 66
b. Limerick, Ire.
John Lee, 76
b. Ireland

Johanna Lee, 35
b. Ireland
Johanna Lee, 46
b. Ireland
Johanna Lee, 56
b. Limerick, Ire.
Johanna, Lee, 69

b. Limerick, Ire.
Joanne Lee, 76, wid
b. Ireland

[1]1851 Census of England, John Lee household.
[2] 1861 Census of England, Gloucestershire, Bristol St. Paul’s, John Lee household.
[3] 1871 Census of England, Civil Parish of St. Philip and Jacob, Clifton Registration District, Gloucestershire, p. 6, Eleanor Lee household, Record Group 10, Piece: 2556, Folio: 39, GSU microfilm roll 835264, digital image viewed online at, January 2008.
[4] 1881 Census of England, Civil Parish of St. Philip and Jacob, Clifton Registration District, Gloucestershire, p. 28,Eleanor Lea household, Record Group 11, Piece 2498, Folio 115, GSU micrrofilm roll 1341602, digital image viewed online at, January 2008.
[5] 1851 Census of England, Gloucestershire, Bristol St. Augustine the Less, p. 43, schedule 199, John Lee household, HO 107, Piece 1,951, GSU film 87,351.
[6] 1861 Census of England, Gloucestershire, Bristol St. Augustine, p. 6, schedule 28, John Lee household, RG 9, Piece 1,24, GSU film 543,857.
[7] 1871 Census of England, Gloucestershire, Stapleton, Bristol City Workhouse, p. 33. no. 19, John Lee, RG 10, Piece 2,575, GSU film 835,271; Johanna Lee is enumerated separately on p. 24.
[8] 1881 Census of England, Gloucestershire, Stapleton, Bristol City Workhouse, p. 26, no. 22, John Lee, RG 11, Piece 2,508, GSU film1,341,605.
[9] 1891 Census of England, Gloucestershire, Stapleton, Bristol City Workhouse, p. 21 (stamped 121), no. 12, Joanne Lee, RG 12, Piece 1,993, GSU film 6,097,103.

 Note: It has not been my intention to present these blog posts as research reports. My intent has been two-fold: as an exercise in organizing my what I think I know and as a way to share information with family members. My practice has been to loosely identify sources in my narrative. However, I am now realizing that researchers who encounter these blog posts deserve more complete citations, and I am experimenting with ways to include footnotes. So far, this has been problematic, especially when pasting and copying from Word documents. I will keep experimenting, but it may slow my publication schedule. I have anticipated that everything I post in this blog will in due time appear in a fully documented research report; that make take some time.

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.