Fearless Females: my brick walls

I’ve only just discovered about the idea of blogging about Fearless Females in the month of March, and there’s a list of blog prompts, one for each day of the month, here, hat-tip to GenWest UK.

Today’s theme is Is there a female ancestor who is your brick wall? Why? List possible sources for finding more information., and since GenWestUK, who gave me the idea, is in the west of England, I’m choosing a couple from that part of the, world too.

The first one is Mary Barber, who was my great great great grandmother. She married Simon Smallridge Stooke in Hennock, Devon, England, on 11 December 1813, and that’s about all I know of her.

Though, according to the 1851 Census of England she was apparently born in Hennock in about 1796, the Online Parish Clerk for Hennock, who kindly looked them up for me, said that the only Mary Barber baptised there was born in 1791. Perhaps she lied about her age on the census, so I’m not sure of her parents.

Her husband, Simon Smallridge Stooke, was baptised in Ashton, Devon, on 4 May 1788, the son of  Francis Stooke and Ann Smallridge. He was a farmer of Chudleigh, and he and Mary Barber had two sons (that we know of), Thomas and Francis. Simon died in 1828 at about the age of 40. The elder son, Thomas, went to Bristol and married Mary Harriet Hollins. The younger son, Francis, does not seem to have married or had children, but what happened to him is uncertain too — there is a possible death record for him in the 1840s.

Our other brick wall there is Mary’s mother-in-law, Ann Smallridge, who married Francis Stooke at Ashton, Devon, on 26 June 1775. Actually she is not so much a brick wall as her parents, as we would love to know more about them. She was from Doddiscombsleigh, a village a couple of miles north of Ashton, and possibly the daughter of Simon and Elizabeth Smallridge of Doddiscombsleigh, where she was probably baptised in 1748.

Mary Barber has been a brick wall for a long time, but perhaps that wall ids beginning to crumble…

The Dixon family of Namaqualand (book review)

Die Dixons van NamakwalandDie Dixons van Namakwaland by Ledivia van Vuuren

A couple of weeks ago I wrote in a blog post Gunning for the Dixons about some of the problems of locating the Dixon family in what is now Namibia.

We were interested because some members of my wife’s family had married into a Dixon family (as described in the blog post in the link above) and they also appeared to be business partners of the Dixon family, but most of the records we had found were confusing and it was possible that there was more than one Dixon family. We made contact with the author of this book, but weren’t able to get hold of a copy because of a postal strike. Now at last we have a copy, and things become a little bit clearer.

It seems that there were definitely two Dixon families, and Edward C. Tabler confused them in his book Pioneers of South West Africa and Ngamiland and conflated them into one.

This book deals with only one of the families, and makes no mention at all of the other, but that at least helps us to say that people who can be identified as members of this family are very unlikely to be members of the other.

Both Dixon families were probably Irish in origin, however.

The two Dixon families are:

1. Benjamin Dixon and Lodivia Manifold (the subjects of this book)
2. Peter Daniel Dixon and Whilhelmina Hendriks

I will refer to them as the “Ben Dixon” and “Peter Dixon” families.

Ben Dixon became a business partner of James Morris, and their two families set out for Namibia in 1843, travelling overland by ox waggon. They were Wesleyan Methodists and travelled part of the way with some Wesleyan missionaries, and stayed at mission stations on the way. They crossed the Orange (Gariep) river on Christmas day 1843, and reached Walvis Bay in about June 1844. This is all described in detail in the book, seen through the eyes of the Dixons’ eldest daughter Jane, who was 13 years old when they left, and had her 14th birthday on the journey.

The Dixon and Morris families built two houses and a store on the Kuiseb River, at a place they named Sandfontein, about three miles from the present town of Walvis Bay, and began trading for cattle, which they exported to St Helena to provide meat for the British garrison there. In September 1844 Mary Morris gave birth to a daughter at Sandfontein (she was named Sarah Ann Kuisip, because she was born on the Kuiseb River, though that is not mentioned in the book).

They kept a couple of lion cubs as pets, and various sailors from ships in Walvis Bay harbour wanted to buy them, and when they would not sell, tried to steal them. Walvis Bay harbour was amazingly busy in those days, mainly with ships collecting guano from the offshore islands, and sometimes there were 10 or 12 of them in the bay at the same time, come to re-stock with stores before going back to collect more guano.

For a while the business prospered, and then things went bad. Fewer guano ships arrived, and many of the people inland who traded cattle for goods did not pay for the goods, and so Ben Dixon and James Morris had so go on debt collecting tours. The debtors, however, sometimes decided that they easiest way to pay their debts was simply to steal the cattle from someone else, or even from those to whom they were owed. One group bought a waggon for a number of cattle, and then took the cattle back to haul the waggon home. Complaints to the British government about this led to the St Helena contract being cancelled.

James Morris took a large herd of cattle overland to Cape Town, to try to sell them there, and returned by sea with his sister Fanny and her husband Frank Stewardson, and their two children. Fanny and Frank Stewardson were my wife Val’s great-great-great grandparents, so snippets like that were of special interest to us.

So one thing that we learned from the book was that while that Ben Dixon and the Morris and Stewardson families were in a business partnership together, they did not intermarry.

Eventually Ben Dixon returned to the Cape Colony, but instead of going back to Cape Town he settled in Little Namaqualand, on a farm near the town of Garies. Their eldest daughter Jane married William Latham, and remained in what is now Namibia until her husband’s death, then went to stay with her parents. The second daughter, Rebecca, married Frank Bassingthwaighte, and their family remained in Namibia, and some of their descendants are still there today. The younger members farmed in the Northern Cape, and so the Ben Dixon family is mainly associated with Namaqualand, as the book’s title suggests.

The Peter Dixon family seems to be entirely different, though also perhaps originally from Ireland.

Peter Daniel Dixon was the son of McCombe Donald Dixon and Maria Sprewt. He was born in the Cape Colony about 1821, and married Wilhelmina Hendriks, by whom he had at least 7 children. He was trading in Walvis Bay in the early 1860s, and his daughter married Fred Green, the elephant hunter, but died in about 1860, and they seem to have had no children. Fred Green then married Sarah Kaipukire, and after a separation or divorce, married Catherine Stewardson, the daughter of Frank and Fanny Stewardson mentioned above. So Fred Green was married into the Peter Dixon family, but was also friendly with the Ben Dixon family.

Peter Dixon married a second time to Annie Cloete, probably in Damaraland, but if they had any children, we know nothing of them. We are hoping to visit Namibia in May, and to do some research in the archives here, and reading this book was in part a preparation for that. When visiting archives a long way away, with limited time, it is useful to know what you are looking for, and also to know what you are not looking for. It can save a lot of time not going down false trails.

But though it appears that we are not related to the Ben Dixon family either by descent or marriage, the book was nevertheless a fascinating and informative read, and gives a good insight into life 150 years ago.

View all my reviews

More on the Stooke family

A couple of months ago I wrote about the family of Thomas William Stooke, of Littleham, Devon, and wondered why his son Lionel Leigh Stooke changed his name to Stephen Rendel (see Why did the Stooke change his name?) Now a cousin has found that article, and got in touch, and sent some photos of Thomas William Stooke and his children, which he has given me permission to post here.

Lionel Leigh Stooke alias Stephen Rendel (1884-1969)

Lionel Leigh Stooke alias Stephen Rendel (1884-1969)

Thomas William Stooke (1854-1915) was the brother of my great grandmother Mary Barber Stooke (1849-1931), and so Tony Meyer, who sent the photos, is my third cousin. Thomas William Stooke was first a sailor, and later a builders merchant, and married Mary Ann Johnson in 1881. They had two children, Lionel Leigh (1884-1969) and Mildred May (1888-1930, known as May).

Mary Ann Stooke (born Johnson)  died in 1902, and Thomas William Stooke then remarried to Jane Moore in 1905, and had a son Leslie Roy Stooke (1908-1973, known as Roy). The children of the first marriage were not too happy about the second marriage, and perhaps that is why Lionel Leigh Stooke changed his name to Stephen Rendel, as described in the earlier post.

All these younger Stookes would have been first cousins of my grandfather Percy Hayes, though he was about 10 years older than Lionel Leigh Stooke, and emigrated to Natal in 1898, when the latter would have been about 14, and his sister May about 12.

May Stooke (1886-1930)

May Stooke (1886-1930)

May Stooke lived with her father and stepmother (and later her younger brother Roy) until her marriage to Leonard Oswald Meyer in 1911. In her photo she has the kind of mischievous look, which fits with the kind of person who would fill in  a census form describing her baby brother’s occupation as “guzzla”, and the maid’s marital status as “Awaiting opportunity”. Sad to say, she died of bone cancer at the relatively young age of 42.

The “guzzla”, Leslie Roy Stooke (known as Roy) was a pilot officer in the RAF in the 1920s, which makes him something of an aviation pioneer, but he had to relinquish that because of ill-health. At the time of his death he was an insurance clerk of Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex. In the picture below, showing him with his father, he looks much the same age as he would have been in the 1911 census, possibly a little younger.

Roy Stooke (1908-1973) and his father Thomas William Stooke (1854-1915)

Roy Stooke (1908-1973) and his father Thomas William Stooke (1854-1915)

Thomas William Stooke was the son of Thomas Stooke and Mary Hariett Hollins, and was born in Bedminster, south of Bristol. His father was Thomas Stooke, born in Chudleigh, Devon, the son of Simon Smallridge Stooke and Mary Barber. We know quite a lot about earlier generations of the Stooke family, but nothing of the Barber or Smallridge ones.

We hhave started a Stooke family mailing list, for members of Stooke families of Devon. For more information, including how to join, click here.

 

Gunning for the Dixons

For many years we have been puzzled by some Dixon family connections in Namibia.

We are interested in the Morris and Stewardson families, and we know that a Morris family (related to us) went to Damaraland (now part of Namibia) in 1843/44 with a Dixon family, and each family built a house at Sandfontein on the Kuiseb River, near Walvis Bay.

Mary Elizabeth Morris gave birth to a daughter there, whose name was Sarah Annie Kuisip Morris — named after the river where she was born. All this we know from estate files and divorce papers in the Cape Archives and various printed books.

Sarah Annie Kuisip Morris’s aunt Frances Morris arrived soon afterwards, with her husband Frank Stewardson, and they had three sons and four daughters. We have no idea what happened to the sons, but the daughters married Oscar Lindholm, Axel Eriksson, John Gunning and Frederick Green. Fred Green was Val’s great great grandfather.

Frederick Green’s first wife was a Dixon — Kate Stewardson was his third wife. But we don’t know his Dixon wife’s first name.

And two Gunning girls —  Charlotte Annie Gunning and Catherine Elizabeth Gunning — married Dixons. But we don’t know the first names of those Dixons.

This is where things begin to get complicated, because it appears that there were at least two, and possibly three or four different Dixon families in Damaraland in the period 1840-1880.

They were:

1. The Ben Dixon family
2. The Peter Dixon family
and possibly
3. The Sidney Dixon family (Sidney may be an alias for Ben)
4. Another Peter Dixon family

A book has recently been published on the Ben Dixon family. We are havingdifficulty in getting a copy because of the post office strike, but have been in touch with one of the authors.

We have collected a fair amount of information on the Peter Dixon family, mainly in the Cape Archives, and the author of the Ben Dixon book has told us that none of the names in the two families match — they really do seem to be two entirely different families, with no links at all.

We’re hoping to go on a research trip to Namibia later in the year, and tie up some of these loose ends, but in the mean time we’re trying to .sort out what we know of the Dixon families, so that if we do discover which Dixons married the Gunning girls, we’ll know which Dixon family they belonged to — it would be funny if one married into one family, and the
other into the other family.

Of the Peter Dixon family we know that he married twice, first to Wilhelmina Hendrikse, and second to Annie Cloete. The children of his first marriage are listed on his death notice in the Cape Archives, but those of the second marriage weren’t known — presumably they stayed in Damaraland and never went to the Cape.

It is through his son Daniel Esma Dixon (there are lots of Daniel Esma Dixons in this family) that we know that Fred Green married a Dixon — in testimony in a court case in Windhoek in 1911 he said that he had arrived in Walvis Bay from Cape Town in 1861 with his brother in law Fred Green, at the age of 14. His sister had died the year before, and Fred Green was cohabiting with a Herero woman (she later gave evidence in the same court case, and her name was Sarah Kaipukire) Daniel Esma Dixon then went to his father in Walvis Bay, and returned to the Cape for a while. He later farmed at Ubib, near Karibib. We seems to be the most probable father of the Dixons who married the Gunning girls, but we’ll probably have to wait till we get to Windhoek to find out.

I’m just wondering if anyone else has connections with Dixon families in Namibia.

Attempted murder

Attempted murder — but who was the intended victim?

The German missionary Carl Hugo Hahn wrote the following entry in his diary on 11 July 1859:

Der früher erwähnte Willem Meintjies hat einen Mordversuch auf Fr.[?] Stewardson gemacht. Man benachrichtigte mich davon von der Mine aus, und Jonker, den ich davon in kenntnis setzte, versprach auf Bestimmteste, ihn einfangen zu lassen.

I’m not a German fundi, so I tried Google translate and Bing, without much success; their efforts did not make much sense. One said a suicide attempt, the other an assassinatuion attempt. So my attempted translation is as follows:

“The previously mentioned Willem Meintjies made a murder attempt on Fr. Stewardson. They informed me of this from the mine, and Jonker, when I informed him of this, promised that he would definitely arrest him” (Hahn Diary, 11 Jul 1859).

I would be grateful if anyone who knows German better than I do could comment on and possibly improve the translation.

But the biggest problem is not so much the translation as the interpretation, and for that some of the background and backstory is needed.

C.H. Hahn was a missionary of the Rhenish Mission Society in Germany who was based at Otjimbingue on the north bank of the Swakop River in what is now Namibia. But back then there was no Namibia, just a lot of principalities that often squabbled among themselves.

That would not have seemed strange to C.H. Hahn, since the Germany he came from was also not a united nation, but a lot of small kingdoms and principalities. But it was the very next year that Otto von Bismarck began his project of uniting Germany under Prussian rule. He succeeded 10 years later, and moved on to what became Namibia, and began to unite it under German rule. But in 1859 none of that had happened.

Jonker was Jonker Afrikaner, the ruler of one of the principalities, with its capital in Windhoek, about 150 kilometres from Otjimbingue. Willem Meintjies was one of his underlings, an assistant.

The “mine” was Matchless Mine a copper mine in the Khomas Hochland, south of the Swakop River (The Swakop was dry most of the year, and only flowed after it rained, but there was water under the dry bed, so it was a wagon route to the coast — the trek oxen could graze on its banks, and drink water if one dug in the sand.

Frank Stewardson had a contract to transport ore from the mine, and goods to the mine, and he and his family lived at or near the mine. His name was Francis, and his wife was Frances Morris, the sister of James Morris of Wynberg in the Cape, who had been a trader in Damaraland some ten years previously.

Namibian countryside. This picture was actually taken at Brandberg, north-west of Otjimbingue, and about 110 years later, but it shows the kind of country they trekked through with their ox waggons.

Namibian countryside. This picture was actually taken at Brandberg, north-west of Otjimbingue, and about 110 years later, but it shows the kind of country they trekked through with their ox waggons.

The editor of the diaries, Brigitte Lau of the Windhoek Archives, put a question mark next to the “Fr.” in front of “Stewardson” in the diary, probably because it could have been short for “Frau”, which would have meant that it was Mrs Stewardson who had been victim of the murder attempt. It could also be short for Mr Stewardson’s first name, Francis or Frank. But that would not be why Brigitte Lau put a questi0n mark there, because she thought Frank Stewardson’s first name was Ian, and listed him as such  in the index to the diaries.

That was because a bloke called Colin Bell wrote a book called South West pioneer : a memorial tribute to James Frank Bassingthwaighte, first permanent white settler in South West Africa. While Bell acknowledged that his book was a fictionalised account — he was writing a historical novel, not actual history — he did not say which bits were fact and which were fiction. He did not know the first names of Mr and Mrs Stewardson, so he made them up — Ian and Norah. I don’t blame him for that — it took us 30 years to find what their first names were — but he could have said so.

But this sort if thing is so typical of family history research. You find a tantalising hint of an incident, but many of the vital details are missing. You have to read between the lines to try to see what happened, and even then there are more questions than answers.

  • Who was the intended victim, Frank or Frances Stewardson?
  • What was the motive? Had they quarrelled, or was he trying to rob them?
  • What happened to Willem Meintjies? Was he arrested? Was he tried? Where and by whom?

And, for that matter, what happened to Frank and Frances Stewardson? We don’t know where or when they died. We know something about their four daughters, and who they marriedf, but their three sons are just as much a mystery.

Morris family of Cape Town, Namaland and Damaraland

The Morris family has been one of our long-standing family puzzles.

From Edward C. Tabler’s book Pioneers of South West Africa and Ngamiland (Cape Town, Balkema, 1973) we learned that Val’s great great grandmother Kate Stewardson’s mother was a daughter of one of the Morrises — Thomas Morris the elder and Thomas Morris the younger, the latter being a nephew of the former.

Further research showed that “Thomas Morris the Elder” was actually James Morris, and that it was his sister Frances Morris who married Frank Stewardson, though we haven’t found a record of their marriage. There is more about the Stewardson family here. According to research done in the Namibian Archives, James Morris was born in Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire, England on 8 August 1817.

There is a document in the Cape Town Archives  giving a partial history of the Morris, Huskisson and Titterton families of Cape Town (Cape Archives, Accession A610), drawn up by a William Charles Titterton in about 1951. He was a grandson of James Morris.

Thanks to FamilySearch, we were able to to discover the baptisms of the Morrises in the parishes of Nether Seal and Over Seal, near Ashby de la Zouch. Their parents were Thomas and Sarah Morris.

Children of Thomas Morris & Sarah at (Nether) Seal

  • Thomas baptised 25 May 1806
  • William baptised 23 Oct 1808
  • Sarah baptised 14 Feb 1813
  • Elizabeth baptised 7 Sep 1815
  • James baptised 8 Aug 1817
  • Frances baptised 27 Aug 1820
  • Catherine baptised 1 Dec 1822

Thanks to some very helpful people at the Rootschat site we were able to learn that the Thomas and Sarah Morris lived at Donisthorpe, on the border of Leicestershire and Derbyshire, where Thomas was a baker and later a butcher, and that he was born there about 1781. At that time there was no church in Donisthorpe, which explains why the children were baptised at Nether/Over Seal. Donisthorpe got its own church in 1838, though it apparently closed recently, so it is back to square one.

It also appears from the 1851 census of Donisthorpe that Thomas Morris the eldest married a second time to Susanna, who was born in the Cape of Good Hope, so he himself must have been in the Western Cape at some time.

These discoveries made over the last few months, enable us to construct a very provisional Morris family history.

Thomas Morris was a butcher, and at least four of his children emigrated to the Cape Colony in the 1820s or 1830s, where his eldest son Thomas was also a butcher. Perhaps the whole family emigrated, or perhaps the father just visited them there. Though they were baptised in the Anglican Church at Nether/Over Seal, in the Cape the family were Methodists.

Thomas Morris had a contract to supply meat to the British government and his younger brother James went to Namaland and Damaraland (now part of Namibia) apparently with the object of procuring a regular supply of cattle for the market. The Hereros (then called “Damaras” by outsiders) were great cattle herders. So James Morris and his wife Mary Elizabeth Huskisson went with another family, the Dixons, overland through the Northern Cape and Namaland, visiting Methodist missionaries on the way. The Morrises had two sons with them. Eventually they reached Walvis Bay in mid-1844, and they wanted to return to Cape Town by sea.

As Tabler (1973:78) puts it

Morris and Dixon reached Walvis Bay in mid-1844, and Morris and his family sailed for Cape Town in Lawton’s vessel so that Mrs Morris could be confined there, but contrary winds drove the ship back. Morris joined Dixon at Sandfontein where they built a store and each man built a house. Mrs Morris gave birth to a daughter there.

And the Methodist baptism register in Cape Town shows the daughter, Sarah Ann, as being born on 6 September 1844, and being baptised on 6 December 1847.

James Morris apparently continued to live in Damaraland until the end of the 1840s, when, according to Tabler, he handed over the business to his nephew Thomas, who was dead by August 1863, and was buried in the Kuiseb River canyon. The problem here is knowing where this Thomas fits into the family. We know that James Morris’s elder brother Thomas had a son Thomas, but he appears to have been alive in 1864, because when his father went insolvent then, he was occupting most of the property. The other brother, William Morris, may have had a son Thomas, but we have found no record of his marriage or children. There are records of a William Morris (perhaps more than one) in the Western Cape in the middle of the 19th century, but the problem is knowing which records pertain to which William, and which of them, if any, was a member of this family.

Frances Morris, the sister of Thoms, William and James, also went to Damaraland in the later 1840s with her husband Frank Stewardson, and their daughter Kate (Val’s great great grandmother) was born at Rooibank, near Walvis Bay about 1848. According to the Lutheran missionary C.H. Hahn, James Morris, the Wesleyan trader, lived in fierce enmity (arger Feindschaft) with his brother-in-law Frank Stewardson, which might explain the lack of any mention of Frances in the Titterton history.

We’re trying to sort out these relationships as we hope to go to Namibia later in the year and do some fossicking in the archives in the hope of finding more, and tying up some loose ends. One of the more interesting loose ends is Abraham Morris (1872-1922), the leader of the 1922 Bondelswarts Rebellion. According to the Dictionary of South African Biography (Vol III, p 634) he was the son of an English trader and a Bondelswarts mother and was educated in the Cape Colony, so he could quite possibly be related — but how?

Our family history wiki in 2012

Here are some statistics for our Family History Wiki in 2012.

The pages that had the most visitors were:

  1. 2184 – Jessie Koch, formerly Falkenberg, born Schultz
  2. 2063 – Morton family
  3. 1974 – Home Page
  4. 1815 – Alfred William Green discussion (bit of a mystery this)
  5. 1638 – Vause family
  6. 1555 – Frederick Thomas Green
  7. 1501 – Bagot family

It is a bit of a mystery why 1815 people (that’s nearly five people a day) should be drawn to a page for discussing Alfred William Green, but then completely fail to discuss him when they get there. By contrast, only 130 people visited the page that actually has information about Alfred William Green.

Jessie Schultz was Val’s great great grand mother, who came to South Africa from Germany in 1858, and it would be nice to know if any of the people who visited her page are related to us, but none of them is saying.

Here are some more general statistics for the site as a whole, and, sadly, they seem to indicate that collaborative family history research is not very popular:

WikiStat

That’s quite a lot of visitors, but the emptiness of the “Messages” section shows that the feedback is almost zero, which is why the edits are relatively few. If few people respond, there is little  motivation to add to the information.

So I’m still a bit disappointed. I thought the wiki format was ideal for family participation, and that other members of the family could help to contribute to information, especially with family stories and biographical information.

I hoped that some cousins might start their own wikis, where the relations we have in common could be linked across two wikis, and then their own wiki could branch out to the unlinked families on their side of the family. In that way we could have a whole network of interlinked family wikis. But somehow it has never reached critical mass, and never taken off.

But maybe this year will be different.

Would it be too much to hope for — that we could have one linked family wiki a month? Or even a quarter? Or perhaps even one for the whole year? It’s quite easy to start one on Wikispaces, but it doesn’t even have to be there, there are other wiki sites as well.

The Stooke family and the end of the world

Well the world didn’t end on 21 December, but our ADSL router did — it was zapped by lightning on the evening of the 20th, and so we missed the momentous event, just when I was making some interesting discoveries about the Stooke family too.

I seem to have lost touch with many of the people who were researching the Stooke family. Our biggest breakthrough came from Joyce Robinson in Victoria, Australia, who sent us a huge family tree back in 1989, and at the time we were in though with several descendants of the Stooke family, including David Furse (who has since died), who had links to two different Stooke families. Back in the early 1990s we were in touch with several others as well, but now there doesn’t seem to be anyone to share interesting family news with.

So if you’re interested in Stooke families originating in Devon in England, and are reading this, please leave a comment.

I have also started a Stooke family forum on YahooGroups. This is a place for contacting others interested in the Stooke family history. The main feature of a mailing list for posting research queries and discoveries etc, but there are also facilities for exchanging Gedcom and other files, posting photographs, databases and more. Please click on the link to find out how to join.

I originally tried to post this on the quick & dirty Posterous blog, but it doesn’t seem to work any more.

Technorati wil…

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Why did the Stooke change his name?

One of the advantages of the growth of the Internet and the amount of genealogical information available is that one can find things quite quickly that might have been quite impossible when we first started doing genealogy in 1974.

The first thing I did when we started was to order my grandfather’s birth certificate, from which I discovered that his parents (and my great grandparents) were William Allen Hayes and Mary Barber Stooke of Bedminster, near Bristol in England. After about 15 years we had managed, mainly through correspondence, to link Mary Barber Stooke to a Stooke family tree at Ashton and Trusham in the Teign valley in Devon, going back to the 16th century. A relative from another branch of the family who lived in Devon went into the Devon record office and checked the records in the tree step-by-step, copying the records by hand and sending them to us by snail mail.

Ashton in Devon, with the bridge over the Teign River. John Stooke, my 9x great grandfather, son of Thomas Stooke and Elizabeth Honywill, was baptised in Ashton on 9 August 1592

Ashton in Devon, with the bridge over the River Teign. John Stooke, my 8x great grandfather, son of Thomas Stooke and Elizabeth Honywill, was baptised in Ashton on 9 August 1592

But we still did not know about Mary Barber Stooke’s brother and sister.The earlier generations were fairly well documented, the more recent ones were not, or at least the documents were less accessible.

We knew she had a sister Sarah, because they were staying together in the 1871 census before Mary Barber Stooke got married. Both their parents seemed to have died by then. It was only much later that we discovered that they had a brother Thomas, and through resources like FreeBMD and FreeCEN managed to discover that he was living in Exmouth, Devon, in 1891, with a wife Mary Ann and two children — Lionel Leigh Stooke and Mildred M. Stooke.

And a mysterious e-mail correspondent, known to me only as visionir, told me that Sarah Stooke had married Charles Robert Parker who ran the Colston Arms pub in Bedminster, Bristol, and hinted that he/she had a lot of information on that family, but refused to share it, saying that he/she already had enough information on them and didn’t need any more. I was able to verify some of this information from censuses, but consulting them entailed a 70km drive to the LDS Family History Centre in Johannesburg, and ordering the the films from Salt Lake City if necessary, and waiting two months for the films to arrive.

I tried to follow up Lionel Leigh Stooke and Mildred M. Stooke. As more resources came online it became easier and quicker.  Their parents, Thomas and Mary Ann Stooke, seem to have died between the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Mildred seems to have married a Leonard O. Meyer and to have had a son Lionel O. Meyer, born in 1918, but of her brother Lionel there was no sign. Had he died? Had he emigrated? There was no way of knowing.

But then the Internet provided the information that would have been impossible to find before — in the London Gazette of 31 May 1949 the following notice appeared:

NOTICE is hereby given that by a deed poll dated
the 19th day of May, 1949, and duly enrolled in the
Supreme Court of Judicature on the 26th day of
May, 1949, I, STEPHEN RENDEL of Number 76
Roman Road Colchester in the county of Essex
Retired a natural born British subject renounced and
abandoned the first names of Lionel Leigh and the
surname of Stooke.—Dated the 27th day of May,
1949.
STEPHEN RENDEL, formerly known as Lionel
(207) Leigh Stooke»

And from that clue it has been possible to piece together the story of Lionel Leigh Stooke, alias Stephen Rendel. From knowing next to nothing about him, suddenly we know more than we know even about his sister.

He grew up in Littleham (Exmouth), living with the family at 6 Raleigh Terrace. He was there at the time of the 1901 census at the age of 16.

He became a civil engineer and went to work in South America. He returned to the UK in August 1914, just before the outbreak of the First World War, under the name of Stephen Rendel, aged 30, and joined the army under that name, giving his birthplace as Hertfordshire. But no Stephen Rendel appears as being born in Hertfordshire (or Herefordshire for that matter) in FreeBMD, or in any census prior to 1911 that I have been able to consult. His appearance at the age of 30 seems to have been his first.

After the war he married Elsie Bowden, and they had a daughter Doris in the UK, and on their next journey back from South America, in 1928, they also had another daughter Pamela, aged 1.  Doris appears to have married Anthony White in 1941, and Pamela to have married Peter Lewars in 1947.

So that seems to be what happened to Lionel Leigh Stooke, but it would be interesting to know why he changed his name, and why he only decided to register the change about 35-40 years later.

His sister Mildred is also quite interesting.

She seems to appear in the 1911 census as May Stooke aged 23. May was probably Mildred’s middle name, and the address and age are right — she was still living at 6 Raleigh Terrace, Exmouth, with a son Roy, aged 3, and a maid Elsie Hocking.

She also had fun with the census form, taking the mickey out of the bureaucrats. Under the “Marriage” column she wrote “Hope to be married shortly” — and she apparently was married a couple of months later. For the maid she wrote under marriage “Awaiting opportunity”, which the dour bureaucrats crossed out and replaced with “Single”.

1911 Census Entry for 6 Raleigh Terrace, Exmouth, Devon, England

1911 Census Entry for 6 Raleigh Terrace, Exmouth, Devon, England

Under Occupation she described herself as “Cook’s Mate”, and her young son Roy as “Guzzla”.

MayStooke2The last column was for Nationality under which she described all three as “Devonshire dumplings”.

The other branch of this family, of Sarah Stooke who married Charles Robert Parker, likewise seems to have got split up after the 1901 census, with the death of both parents.

There were three children, four, counting one who died young. They were:

  • Henry Charles Bannerman Parker (born about 1889)
  • Amelia Mary Parker and Edward Colston Parker (twins, born 1890, but Edward died the following year)
  • Edward James Stooke Parker (born 1891)

Edward James, the youngest, may have married Kate Jacobs.

This particular branch of the Stooke family — Mary Barber, Sarah and Thomas — were the children of Thomas Stooke (1815-1868) who was born in Chudleigh, Devon, and married Mary Harriet Hollins, daughter of Richard Hollins. Unlike the Stookes, we know very little of the antecedents of the Hollins family.

And if anyone out there is related to these Devonshire dumplings, please get in touch — we love discovering new cousins!

Update 27 Jan 2013

And now a descendant of the “Devonshire dumplings” has indeed got in touch, and we have been able to sort out their story a bit.

One of the things about the 1911 census entry that is a bit puzzling is that May Stooke describes herself as a “daughter”, and not as the head of the household, suggesting that she is the daughter of an absent father or mother, in which case Roy might have been her brother and not her son.

This has indeed proved to be the case. Mary Ann Stooke (born Johnson) died in 1902, and the widower Thomas Stooke married Jane Moore in about May 1905, and they had a son Leslie Roy Stooke in 1908, the “guzzla” of the 1911 census. Thomas and Jane Stooke were staying in a hotel in Blackpool, Lancashire at the time of the 1911 census, where both are described as having been born in “Barnstaple, Bristol” — the hotelier was probably a bit confused when he filled in the census form.

And while we haven’t yet managed to discover why Lionel Leigh Stooke changed his name to Stephen Rendel, it appears that his maternal grandfather’s name was John Rendle Johnson.

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