Many years!

Today is Val’s 60th birthday, and also her name day, being the feast-day of the Great Martyr St Katherine of Alexandria.

To celebrate Val took the day off work and we went out to lunch at a fancy fish restaurant, since the feast of St Katherine is one of the days in the pre-Christmas fast when fish is permitted.

Val Hayes 60th birthday 25 Nov 2008

Val Hayes 60th birthday 25 Nov 2008

God grant you many years!

John Johnson Pearson — mystery uncle

One of the more interesting and mysterious members of our family is Val’s great-grandfather’s brother on her mother’s side, John Johnson Pearson.

When we started our family history research soon after we were married we were quite lucky with the Pearson side. Val’s grandmother, Martha Pearson (nee Ellwood) had lived with them in a granny flat for 12 years after her husband died, and so Val heard lots of stories about her youth and family in Whitehaven, and she left relics in the form of photos and newpaper cuttings with reports of births, marriages and deaths in the family, most of whom still lived in Whitehaven, Cumberland.

When we started our family history research we wrote to the Whitehaven News, and asked any members of the family who were interested to get in touch with us, and some did, including one of the family eccentrics, Anthony Hurton Pearson. Val’s mother told us that she and her sister had gone to the UK before the World War II, when they were teenagers, to visit the family, and they had been embarrassed by their cousin Tony Pearson, who was strange, and played fairies at the bottom of the garden.

Nevertheless, it was Tony Pearson who first told us about J.J. Pearson (we later found out that his full name was John Johnson Pearson). What he told us was a strange mixture of fact and fantasy. What we eventually found, from Tony Pearson and elsewhere, was the following:

J.J. Pearson was born in Whitehaven about 1850, the son of William Pearson and Sarah Johnson.

John Johnson Pearson was sometime editor of the India Herald and Karachi Beacon. He was the author of The exiles return to their lost inheritance (London, Stockwell, 1917), and was a British Israelite. He appears to have travelled widely through “the prophetic earth” (Palestine, Egypt, Syria and Mesopotamia).

According to Anthony Hurton Pearson he was an assayer who went to India (probably true), and the first to completely neutralise the by-products of the gas-making process at his Broughton Plant (doubtful), and was also known as Basil Gotto (more doubtful). He married a harem of Sikh ladies (even more doubtful), and  Joseph Stalin was his son by one of them (almost certainly fantasy), and that he later lived in Paris lecturing at the Sorbonne (doubtful).

Another far more sensible member of the family was Ralph Pearson (another of Val’s mother’s cousins) who got quite excited about it when we wrote to him, and followed up many of the leads we had found. He established that J.J. Pearson was indeed the author of the books that Tony Pearson mentioned, and even managed to photocopy one and send it to us, and as we had guessed from the title, it was a British Israelite tract. He had some kind of training in chemisty, as an apothecary, or perhaps an assayer, but does not seem to have belonged to any of the professional bodies (Ralph Pearson tried to follow that up).

We’ve found no record that he ever married (apart from Tony Pearson’s tale of the Sikh ladies), or that he had any children (not even Stalin!). He may have lived in Paris for a while, but it is unlikely that he ever lectured at the Sorbonne. The trail goes dead after 1924, so he may have died then, or disappeared, in Paris or elsewhere.

Anyway, it would be interesting to know a little more about him. He certainly seems to have been one of the family eccentrics, and to have lived a fairly interesting life, which took him far from Whitehaven.

So if you know anything more about him (or other members of the family) please help us to complete the puzzle and leave a comment below.

In-laws

There was recently a discussion on the term “in-law” as in “father-in-law”, “mother-in-law”, “brother-in-law”, “son-in-law” etc.

In looking up something else I came across this entry in Fowler’s Modern English usage, which provides a good summary.

-in-law, describing relationship, was formerly also used in the sense of step- . To Sam Weller [whoever he may be] his father”s second wife was always his mother-in-law; we are not told what he called his own wife’s mother after he married. Today -in-law is never so used; my mother-in-law becomes so by my marriage, my stepmother by hers. The expression in-law derives from the Canon Law prescribing the degrees of affinity within which marriage is prohibited.

The lesson to genealogists is obvious. When you see -in-law, don’t assume what kind of relationship it refers to — always check to make sure.

This happened in our family.

In the 1861 census my ggg grandfather, Simon Hayes, was shown staying in Winscombe, Somerset, with the family of Giles Williams, whose wife was Sidonia.

Simon’s relationship to the head of the household was described as
“brother-in-law”

My first thought (and that of several other researchers into this family) was that Sidonia was Simon’s sister, and that her maiden name was Hayes.

And that was wrong.

After more research I discovered that Sidonia’s maiden name was Sweet.

Simon’s wife was Rachel Allen, and her sister Hester Allen had been Giles
Williams’s first wife, but she died before the 1861 census.

This is not a “step-” relationship, but it is a caution against jumping to
conclusions about the meaning of -in-law.

Don’t assume, always check.

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