Have you ever come across a line in your family which you thought had become extinct? Have you ever assumed a distant relative passed away without having had children? Ever felt like that person attached to a solitary name hanging on your family tree never made it to adulthood? And have you ever been proven wrong?
If you have, then you might understand my sheer joy when yesterday I spent most of my evening going mad on Ancestry, FamilySearch and other webpages trying to fathom out something which I felt was slightly amiss on my Davis side. You’ll remember of course the case of the elusive Mr. Davis, my great-great-great-grandfather John whose second marriage produced the girl who one day became the grandmother of my grandmother. Still on track? OK.
I have always felt something was missing on this side. John’s daughter Jane, begotten through John’s second marriage to Maria Parker, was an only child. But of course, if there was a second marriage, there must have been a first one. Sadly, John’s first wife is recorded in one single census return, and on top of that, it’s the one taken in 1841.
What does the census tell us about John’s first family? Well, not much, but enough to start searching. In 1841 John and his wife (Ann) were already living in Colwall (Herefordshire), where John originally came from. His wife, however, is recorded as not being born in the county. So is their 9 year-old son, also called John. Daughters Ann (13) and Hannah (11) are both listed as being natives of Herefordshire. A look at the baptisms for Colwall, which fortunately can be found online, made it clear that Ann was indeed baptised on 24th February 1828 and her younger sister followed suit on 14th February 1830. Naturally, there is no trace of John Jr., who must have been born around 1832 in a different county.
The church records also mention the funerals which took place in Colwall until 1863, and it doesn’t take long for me to find John’s wife’s death recorded in 1843 when she was just 48, so slightly older than her husband. In 1845 John remarried in Worcestershire and by 1851 he is recorded back in Colwall with his new wife Maria and their infant daughter Jane. But no trace of the other children.
A new search proves that Hannah in fact died aged 22 in 1852 and was buried in Colwall. But still no trace of John Jr. (in fact I have found nothing more on him after 1841) or sister Ann. Hopefully, they might be elsewhere and thus were not recorded living in Colwall in 1851. But what a stroke of luck to see that Hannah was alive in 1851, one year before she died. as she died single, I have no doubt that when the census was taken her surname was still Davis.
No trace of Hannah Davis in Herefordshire in 1851; but as I know she was born in Herefordshire, I carry out a new search, this time including the county where she was born but not where she was living. Results pop up and bingo, Hannah Davis, born in what seems to be Colwalm (an excusable mistake) and living in Saint Clement, Worcester. Hannah is listed as a sister, but the head of the house is James Allsup (or Allsop), who was born in Worcester and whose wife is none other than Ann born in Colwalm (sic) as well! There they are! My two distant aunties, Ann and Hannah. Hannah obviously lived there for a short time, then went back to Colwall and died there a year later. But Ann lived on, as subsequent census returns show me. she is recorded in all the censuses until at least 1901, and seems to be the matriarch of a small brood of two, Alfred and Edith Ann Allsop.
A new search on the public family trees on Ancestry reveals son Alfred married Ellen Greenhill on Christmas Day 1874 and became the father of at least eight children, born either in Worcester or Manchester. I google their name just to see if I can find anything else on them, and find a reference to a Alfred Samuel Allsop, born in 1877 in Manchester who became an electrical engineer and (wait for it) died on the Titanic disaster. My head starts spinning. Could he be one of my Alfred’s Manchester-born sons? Name and place match fairly well! Ancestry reveals the truth, once more.
It appears that Alfred Samuel Allsop was the son of George and Elizabeth, not my Alfred and wife Ellen. Further research proves that the Alfred that did perish in the Titanic sinking does appear on someone else’s tree, but it seems they have not entered his personal details like his marriage, his son or his watery end. So I think what I’ll do is contact the owner of the tree on Ancestry and let them know of their “famous” relative.
Ann and Hannah may not have gone down with the Titanic, but they have certainly helped me to solve a family mystery which has haunted me for quite some time. And surely, that is a great finding too.