Growden siblings

Brad Growden of New Orleans just discovered that today (or was it yesterday?) was world sibling day. He’d never heard of it, and neither had I, but it was a good excuse for posting this photo of himself and his siblings on Facebook. Trouble is, stuff posted on Facebook is often impossible to find after yesterday, and this one was too good not to share, so to all Growden and Growdon cousins out there, here are your New Orleans cousins.

Arthur Bruce Joseph Growden, Vicki Growden and Lori Growden Murphy at Southern Yacht Club, 2 June 2013

Arthur Bruce Joseph Growden, Vicki Growden, Lori Growden Murphy and Thomas Bradley Growden at Southern Yacht Club, 2 June 2013

For those who want to know the details, Thomas Bradley GROWDEN (& siblings) and Stephen HAYES are 4th cousins 2 times removed.  Their common ancestors are William GROWDEN and Elizabeth Couch SAUNDERCOCK, who were married at St Meubred’s Church, Cardinham, Cornwall, England on 26 November 1792.

Brad is descended from William, the eldest son of William Growden and Elizabeth Saundercock (or Sandercock), who, with his son Henry, emigrated from Cornwall to Australia. Henry Growden later moved to New Zealand, and his son, the Revd Arthur Matthew Growden was a missionary who travelled all over and eventually settled in Tennessee, USA. One branch of his descendants moved to the New Orleans area of Louisiana, while another went to Alaska. Brad’s great-aunt, Monica Louise Deragowski, who collected much of this family history, said someone had once told her that in Cornwall the Growden families were so close that they traded roosters. That certainly isn’t the case today, where the different branches are widely scattered.

My own branch are not so widely scattered. Matthew Growden, the fourth son of William Growden and Elizabeth Saundercock, seems to have stayed in Cornwall all his life, and died in the Bodmin Workhouse at the age of 83. His son William Matthew Growden (my great grandfather) emigrated to the Cape Colony in about 1876, where he became a platelayer on the Cape Government Railways, eventually rising to the rank of permanent way inspector.

So, does anyone know if there is a world cousins day?

 

Adding Growdon and Sandercock to Find A Grave

I’ve been adding pictures some of our Sandercock and Growdon gravestones to the Find A Grave web site.

You can see them here.

All our branch of the Growdon/Growden family are descended from William Growden and Elizabeth Sandercock, who were married in Cardinaham, Cornwall, in 1792, so most of the Sandercocks buried in the Cardinham churchyard are related to us too. Some Sandercocks also married members of the Riddle family, but the Riddles are not direct ancestors (so there is no chance that we might be descended from Lord Voldemort!)

St Meubred's Church, Cardinham, Cornwall -- ancestral bums sat on these pews

St Meubred’s Church, Cardinham, Cornwall — ancestral bums sat on these pews

We visited Cardinham in 2005, and took several photos of gravestones, and Find A Grave seemed to be a good way of sharing them. If you have any photos of gravestones, you might like to share them on Find A Grave too.

St Meubred's Church, Cardinham, Cornwall

St Meubred’s Church, Cardinham, Cornwall

There are other Sandercock families from other parts of Cornwall, but we have have found no links to them (yet). There are also Growden families from the nearby parishes of Warleggan and St Neot, but we have found no links to them either.

Tombstone Tuesday: Growdon, Queenstown, Eastern Cape

Having just written a blog post about my great grandfather, William Matthew Growdon (or Growden), it seems appropriate to include a closer view of his tombstone in Queenstown Cemetery.

William Matthew Growdon’s grave in Queenstown Cemetery, Eastern Cape

His wife Elizabeth Growdon (born Greenaway) died some 14 years later, and was buried next to him. She was born in St Breward, Cornwall. Her brother William Greenaway also came to South Africa.

Elizabeth Growdon, born Greenaway (1842-1927), Queenstown Cemetery

When we first visited the cemetery in 1975, we found the graves quite easily. We took black & white photos then. In 2011 we visited again, and had some difficulty in finding them. Memory seems to play strange tricks. We took a number of colour photos this time, and also noticed that several of the graves nearby had been vandalised. We took some photos to show the graves in relation to surrounding graves, to make them easier to find next time (if there is a next time).

Queenstown Cemetery, May 2011

 

 

William Matthew Growdon (1851-1913)

William Matthew Growdon (or Growden) was my great grandfather. Today my cousin Jenny Aitchison asked me for the story of his death, and I thought it might be more interesting to tell the story of his life — what little we know of it.

William Matthew Growdon (1851-1913)

His story can be briefly told: he was born in Cornwall in 1851, and emigrated to the Cape Colony about 1876, and lived in the Eastern Cape, working on the Cape Government Railways as a platelayer. He was later promoted to permananet way inspector, and when he retired from the railways he went farming in the Free State. He tired of that, and went to live in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape, where he died a few months later after a cart accident in 1913.

But from various pieces of information from censuses and church records and the like, it is possible to expand the story a little.

He was born on 22 February 1851 at Scarlet’s Well, Bodmin, Cornwall, the son of Matthew Growden and Christiana Growden, formerly Pope, born Dyer. His father Matthew Growden was also born in Bodmin, the son of William Growden and Elizabeth Sandercock, and his mother Christiana was apparently born in the nearby town of Roche.

By the time the widow Christiana Pope married Matthew Growden she already had three children, so when young William Matthew Growden was born in 1851 he had four older siblings — his half-brother James Dyer, aged about 15, another half-brother Thomas Pope, aged about 13, a half-sister Philippa Pope, aged about 11, and a full sister, Elizabeth Ann Growden, aged 2. Only his sisters were at home when he was a baby, though, because when the 1851 Census was taken when he was a month old, his father and brothers were living at Constantine, Cornwall, where all three were listed as labourers. Constantine is about 50 km (30 miles) south-west of Bodmin.

Scarlett’s Well, where William Matthew Growden and his sister Elizabeth Ann were born, is an interesting place, a holy well  on the outskirts of Bodmin. The Holy Wells of Old Bodmin Town | The Heritage Journal:

Scarlett’s well, is another of Bodmin’s peaceful and secluded holy wells. A mineral rich healing well situated by the beginning of the Camel trail on the edge of town. The site is set back into an Ivy clad bank, where a spring gushes forth from the hillside and flows into a granite trough which holds the water briefly before it continues its flow towards the bubbling stream which meanders along the valley floor towards the larger River Camel and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean. This site is very beautiful and peaceful. The well was once part of the Priory of Bodiniel and has many stories of healing and miracles associated with it. The well and its immediate vicinity is reputed to be haunted by a lady dressed in white. This ghost has been linked to Victorian times, but it is undoubtedly a much earlier ancient folkloric echo of the goddess of the sacred spring.

I’m a little sceptical of the “undoubtedlys” that are liberally sprinkled in such accounts, but since William Matthew Growden grew up there in Victorian times, I wonder if he ever saw the ghost, or witnessed the events that gave rise to it.

Scarlett’s Well, Bodmin, Cornwall, England

But whether or not he ever saw a ghost, there are plenty of other things to see, and it must have been a marvellous place for a child to grow up, with woods, fields and streams to play in.

Footpath at Scarlett’s Well, Bodmin, Cornwall

William Matthew Growden was baptised at St Petroc’s Church in Bodmin on 28 December 1851.

St Petroc’s Church, Bodmin, Cornwall, England

The family was probably poor, and so I find it difficult to picture them living in this house as it is today, but it is the only house in the vicinity of Scarlett’s Well. Perhaps back in the 1850s it did not have so many additions, or perhaps they lived in another house nearby, now demolished.

House at Scarlett’s Well, Bodmin, in 2005

Matthew Growden’s occupation is shown on contemporary documents as “woodman”, which does not seem to have been lucrative or well paid. It could mean someone who cared for the woods, thinning trees, clearing away dead wood, repairing fences and stiles etc. Or it could be someone who simply scavenged dead wood for sale as fire wood and so on. If Matthew Growden was the former, it is possible that the cottage shown in the picture (in its original form) went with the job. If the latter, the family might have lived in a dwelling of the type found in what are today called “informal settlements”, and being a temporary structure, could easily have vanished or fallen into ruin after 150 years.

By the time of the 1861 census, when William Matthew Growden was 10 years old, the family was living at 3 Higher Bore Street, in Bodmin, which is not very far from Scarlett’s Well. Theirs would probably have been one of the whitewashed houses on the right of the picture, unless the street numbering hass changed drastically since then. He is shown as a scholar on the census, though it is not clear which school he attended. By that time he also had two younger brothers, Mark Dyer Growden  born in 1853 and Simeon Growden born in 1855. Simeon died at the age of 8 in Plymouth, Devon.

Higher Bore Street, Bodmin, where the Growden family was living at the time of the 1861 Census

On 2nd August 1868 William Matthew Growden married Elizabeth Greenaway, in the parish of St Breward. He was 17 years and 5 months old, and she was about nine years older than him, which makes her look, on the face of it, like a bit of a cradle snatcher. They lived at Limbhead (also called Limehead) down the hill from the centre of the village, and W.M. Growden is described on their marriage certificate as a labourer. Their banns were called in the 12th, 19th and 26th of July 1868. His mother, Christiana Growden, died a month after they were married

We can only speculate about what took W.M. Growden to St Breward. Possibly he worked for, or was apprenticed to, a stone mason, as stone working was one of the industries St Breward was known for. In later life his occupation was sometimes listed as “stonemason”.

Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant when they married, and their first child, Christiana, was born about November 1868, named after William Matthew’s mother who had died a couple of months previously. Christiana was baptised on 26th August 1869, and died a few weeks later. She was buried on 16th September 1869 in St Breward. Her name was listed in the baptism register as Growdon with the “o” spelling rather than Growden with the “e” spelling, and thereafter William Matthew Growdon, his children and his grandchildren used the Growdon spelling.

Soon after Christiana’s death William Matthew and Elizabeth moved to Bodmin, where they were living at the time of the 1871 census with their 9-month-old-daughter Melinda Francis. William Matthew Growden (the Growden spelling was still used on the census) was shown as a general labourer.

In about February 1872 another child, Richard Matthew Growden (known as Dick), was born in Bodmin, and on 28 July 1873 William George Growdon (known as George, and with the Growdon spelling) was born at Penpillick, near Tywardreath. William Matthew Growdon is shown on George’s birth certificate as a tin miner.

The family’s stay in Penpillick did not last long, however, because by 1875 they were back at St Breward, where another son, Mark Dyer Growdon, was born about February 1875. He was baptised in St Breward on 27 Jun 1876, and died a few days later. It seems that the Growdons only had their children baptised when they were in danger of death. But the next child, Simeon Growdon, born on 12 May 1876 in St Breward, was baptised on 27 June at the same time as his ill-fated brother Mark.

Some time between the middle of 1876 and the middle of 1878 the Growdon family moved to the Cape Colony, where railway lines were being built from the costal ports inland. In 1870 there were only two railways in the Cape Colony, one from Cape Town to Wellington, and another to Wynberg, built and owned by private companies. In 1872 the Cape Government bought the railways, and a railway boom developed, wilth lines going inland from Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and East London, all aiming to connect to Kimberley, the diamond boom town.

William Matthew Growden was a platelayer, building the new lines. By 1877 the railway line from East London had reached King William’s Town, and James  (Jim) Growdon was born there about 1878. Joseph (Joe) Growdon was born in Cathcart on 3 December 1879.

In 5 May 1880 the railway reached Queenstown, and Christiana Jane (Jenny) Growdon was born somewhere along the line on 12 January 1882, possibly at Cathcart, because her younger sister Florence Growdon was born in Cathcart on 12 September 1883. In 1888 the Anglican priest from Queenstown discovered the Growdon family living at Bushmanshoek, and on 14 April 1888 the South African-born Growdon children were all baptised on the same day. On 2 September 1885 the East London line reached the Orange River at Aliwal North.

On 22 September 1890 William Matthew Growdon’s eldest surviving daughter, Melinda Frances, married John Ainscough, a well-sinker for the railways,  at Springfontein in the Free State.

At Springfontein, across the Orange River in the Free State, the East London railway line joined with those from Port Elizabeth and Cape Town on one side, and Bloemfontein on the other. On 2 November 1899, a month after the start of the Anglo-Boer War, William Matthew Growdon was transferred to Springfontein on account of the resignation of Permanent Way Inspector W. Blair. Blair may have resigned because of the war, and it would be interesting to know what WMG did in Springfontein in war time, when it was unlikely that there would be a great deal of cross-border traffic. Possibly there were attempts on the part of one side or the other to blow up parts of the railway line, which would require repairs that a permanent-way inspector would supervise, but we don’t know. At that time Springfontein was simply a railway junction in the middle of nowhere, probably with few inhabitants other than railway employees. Free State forces had crossed the Orange River into the Cape Colony at about this time, but by February 1900 the British had pushed them back and were advancing on Bloemfontein, In May 1900 the British announced the annexation of the Free State as the Orange River Colony, though it would be another two years before they had undisputed control of it. Later in the war, in January 1901, a concentration camp was established by the British at Springfontein, in which over 700 women and children died.

Melinda Francis Ainscough and her husband had nine children, several of whom died young. At least two of them, Alice and George Ainscough, were born at Springfontein during the Anglo-Boer War, and George died at the age of two weeks, perhaps of the same disease that caused the death of so many children in the concentration camp nearby. On 29 May 1903 Melinda Frances Ainscough herself died, and the surviving children were brought up by their grandparents, William Matthew and Elizabeth Growden.

In 1904 a town was established at Springfontein. William Matthew Growdon bought a farm in the area, Mooiplaats, on 4 January 1904. He must have retired from the railways soon afterwards, because he received a pension of £36/4/2 which, according to the resident magistrate at Bethulie, he drew up to and including 31 March 1908, but at no later date.

In April 1913 the Growdons moved to Queenstown, and William Matthew Growdon died four months later in a cart accident. He had taken Mrs Berry and Mrs White on a drive to see the Bongolo Dam, on the afternoon of Tuesday 26 August 1913, and on their return the horse bolted, and the spider overturned, and the occupants were dragged for about 50 yards. They were taken to the nearby Bongolo Tea Room, where he died the following afternoon. Here is a contemporary newspaper account:

FATAL CART ACCIDENT: MR GROWDEN SUCCUMBS

A serious carriage accident occurred on Tuesday afternoon last near the Bongolo Dam as a result of which Mr. W. Growden, the driver and owner of the vehicle, received such serious injuries that he succumbed on Wednesday evening. From what one can gather, it appears that Mr. Growden, who resides at the corner of Batchelor and Berry Streets, took out to the Bongolo Mrs S.J. Berry of Milner Street, and Mrs. Geo. White, a lady friend from Port Elizabeth, who has been spending a holiday in town (and who was due to leave for home the following morning.) Having viewed the dam the return journey was commenced. The horse, which was very frisky, set off at a brisk trot down the hill, and when passing through a drove of cattle evidently took fright, and becoming unmanageable, ran the spider into the side of the hill, violently overturning it and burying the unfortunate occupants beneath the smashed vehicle, under which they were dragged some 50 yards, till the horse broke its traces. No one, it seems, saw the accident occur, and  the injured ladies say that it all happened so quickly that it is hardly possible to say how it all occurred. Mr. Myburg, who was working in the field near by,  saw a cloud of dust and a horse careering down the road, having freed itself from the vehicle. When he arrived upon the scene the Port Elizabeth lady, though injured in the hand and shoulder, was endeavouring to lift the broken spider off her less fortunate companions, who lay stunned and bleeding beneath. They were taken as speedily as possible to the Tea Rooms, and a telephone message was sent to Dr Clark and the S.A.P. who were soon on the spot and gave all the aid that was possible. It was found that Mrs. Berry was badly cut about the head and face, and her ankle was sprained. Mrs White received injuries to her left shoulder and arm, and her right thumb was sprained. In Mr. Growden’s case it was seen that the injuries were the most serious of all. The skull was badly cut nearly half  way wound, and  the poor old man never regaind consciousness for any length of time. Add to this his age (72 years) and one can hardly wonder that the shock was too much.

The injuries were so serious that it was deemed advisable to keep the patients  at the Tea Rooms for the night, where every attention was given them by Mr. and Mrs. Myburg and many willing helpers. Corpl. Avery, of the S.A.M.P., rendered yeoman service in dressing the wounds of the injured, remaining with them all night, and saw to the safe removal into town the following day of Mrs. Berry and Mrs. White For this purpose Mr Bremmer kindly placed his motor car at their disposal. It was deemed inadvisable to move Mr Growden who, as stated above, died at Bongolo the same evening.

The ladies, we hear, are progressing favourably towards recovery.

Mr Growden was at one time on the C.G.R., and afterwards he went farming in the Free State, There he remained until four months ago, when he returned and took up his residence in Queenstown. He was an old Freemason and will be buried with Masonic honours on Saturday ar four o’clock. To his sorrowing wife and family we offer our sincere sympathy.

Like many journalistic accounts, there are some in accuracies. WMG was 62 years old, not 72 as stated in the article. After his death, the family gathered for his funeral at Queenstown.

The Growdon family (and a few friends) gathered for the funeral in Queenstown

Elizabeth lived for another 14 years, and was buried next to William Matthew Growdon in Queenstown Cemetery. Her tombstone lies too, because it says she was 87 when she died (which would have made her 15 years older than her husband), but if her birth certificate is to be believed, she would have been 84, having been born at St Teath, Cornwall, in 1842. My mother, Ella Hayes (second from the left in the front row of the photo above) did not have fond memories of her grandmother, and said she was a fierce termagant. According to my second cousin Violet McDonald, the Aiscough children (of whom her mother was one), who were brought up by Elizabeth after their mother died, had similar memories.

 

Queenstown Cemetery, May 2011

If you have any more stories about William Matthew Growdon and his family, please add them in a comment below, or better still, add them here.

Hannan cousins in Melmoth

Here’s a photo from 30 years ago, when we were living in Melmoth, and my mother, Ella Hayes, came to visit us with her cousins Betty Stewart and Nancy Badcock.

Nancy Badcock, Bridget Hayes, Betty Stewart, Jethro Hayes, Ella Hayes. Melmoth 14 February 1982

Several members of the Hannan family came to South Africa some time in the first decade of the 20th century including David McFarlane Hannan (1884-1951), the father of Nancy and Betty, and his sister Janet McCartney Hannan (1882-1946), who married George Growdon — Ella Hayes (1910-1983) was their daughter.

David Hannan married Agnes Lindsey Irvine, and Nancy’s full name was Agnes Lindsey Irvine Hannan (1925-1984). Betty was Elizabeth Hay Irvine Hannan (1911-2002), named after her maternal grandparents, Alexander Christopher Irvine and Elizabeth Hay.

David and Agnes moved around quite a bit. After coming to South Africa they returned to Scotland, where their middle children, Tom, Alexander and Stanley, were born, and then returned to South Africa and moved to Zambia, then known as Northern Rhodesia.

 

 

 

Growdon family in the Eastern Cape

On our recent holiday trip we visited Steve’s second cousin once removed, Hamish Scott, and his wife Monica and their son Robbie at Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape.

Scott family

Hamish, Monica & Robbie Scott, Stutterheim, 17 May 2011

Hamish is the son of Steve’s second cousin, Florence Scott, born Moors, and Florence’s grandmother was Christiana Jane (Jenny) Growdon, who married Daniel Moors at Bethulie in the Free State.

Robbie runs a nursery, and self-catering cabins called The Shire which are built on the edge of the forest, and are a marvellous place for a holiday for people who want to relax and watch birds.

shire

The Shire, self-catering cabins at Stutterheim, run by Robbie Scott

The Growdon family came to the Eastern Cape from Cornwall in the 1870s and William Matthew Growdon (my great grandfather and Hamish’s great great grandfather) was a platelayer on the Cape Government Railways, building the railway line from East London to the interior. He retired to Queenstown with his wife Elizabeth (born Greenaway), and they are buried in the cemetery there.

After leaving Stutterheim we went to Queenstown to look at their grave, which we had last seen in 1975. At first we could not find it, and thought it might have been vandalised, as many graves in Queenstown cemetery seemed to be, but eventually found it with the help of one of the caretakers. The stones were intact, but the railing around the graves had been removed, presumably by metal thieves, which was one reason we could not find the graves.

Graves of Elizabeth and William Matthew Growdon in Queenstown cemetery

Kendall and Barnicote families of Cornwall

My great grandfather William Matthew Growden or Growdon (1851-1913) came to the Cape Colony with his family in 1876. They came from Cornwall to work onthe railway from the Eastern Cape to the interior, and several more children were born in the Eastern Cape. He retired to a farm near Bethulie, then sold it and moved to Queenstown, where he was killed when the cart he was driving overturned. Many of his descendants are still in South Africa, while some are now living in Canada, Australia, and even back in the UK.

William Matthew Growdon had two younger brothers and an older sister. One brother, Simeon, died young. The other, Mark Dyer Growdon, married Elizabeth Dymond on 1 Jan 1882 and died the following November. They do not seem to have had any children.

The elder sister, Elizabeth Ann Growden (1849-1871), married Nicholas Kendall, a sailmaker of Mevagissey in Cornwall, and had one daughter, Elizabeth Kendall, before she too died. Nicholas Kendall married another Elizabeth and they then had three more kids (that confused me for a while — I thought all the Kendall kids shown in the 1881 census were related, until I discovered the elder Elizabeth had died).

So Elizabeth Kendall, born about 1870, would have been my closest Growden relative left in Cornwall. She would have been about 6 when her uncle William Matthew Growden and all her cousins departed for the Cape.

And today I discovered that she married William Henry Barnicoat in St Austell, Cornwall, in 1895.

I haven’t yet discovered if they had any children, but I hope they did. See Update below! That opens the possibility of more cousins on  the Growden side of the family that would be closer relatives than all the others left in the UK after William Matthew Growdon left there. All the other Growdens that remained were descended from William Mathew’s uncles. We’ve been in touch with some of them over the years.

I hope that if any descendants of William Henry Barnicoat and Elizabeth Kendall see this, they will get in touch.

There remains one other interesting possibility.

In 1824 a Joseph Growden married a Ginney Barnicote. He was a member of a Growden family of Warleggan and St Neot, and some of the descendants of that branch moved to Sheffield in Yorkshire. Perhaps there’s a link somewhere that will show the connections of both families.

Update 23 Nov 2010

I’ve discovered that William Henry Barnicoat and Elizabeth Kendall had at least two children:

  • James Growden Barnicoat (born 1897)
  • William Ronald (or Roland) Barnicoat (born 1901)

They were my mother’s second cousins, the only second cousins she had on the Growdon side, and I wonder if she even knew of their existence. She never mentioned them, to my recollection.

Seventy-five years ago: Growden news

75 YEARS AGO

Aug. 22, 1935 — As the fourth day passes without a trace of the four well-known citizens of Fairbanks who disappeared Monday morning while traveling by airplane from Dawson to Fairbanks, search for the lost plane and its occupants is being pursued with increased vigor by Alaska aviators.

Official authorization for the search was received today from Gov. John W. Troy. From his headquarters in Juneau, he sent a telegram to United States Commissioner W.N. Growden of Fairbanks directing that Murray Hall, federal aeronautics inspector, be placed in charge of the hunt and advising that territorial funds could be used in prosecuting it.

from The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The above report would refer to:

     Name: William Nelson Growden [4458]
      Sex: M
AKA: Nelson Growden

Individual Information


          Birth: 18 Aug 1893 - Franklin Co, Tennessee, USA 1
        Baptism:  
          Death: 29 Oct 1979 - Los Angeles, California, USA 2
         Burial:  
 Cause of Death:  
        User ID: 4458
           AFN :  

Parents


         Father: Arthur Matthew Growden [4399] (1861-1942) [MRIN:1520] 
         Mother: Ella Edna Walling [4414] (1866-1936) 

Spouses and Children


1. *Gwendolyn Fisher [4462] (               - Bef 1979) [MRIN:1540]
       Marriage:  
         Status:  
       Children:
                1. William Charles Growden [4468] (1922-1992)
                2. Robert Nelson Growden [4469] (1923-          )
                3. Andrew Jackson Growden [4470] (1928-          )
                4. James Wilson Growden [4471] (1935-1964)

Notes


General:

Worked in government service in Alaska.

Alaska. Democrat. Member of Alaska territorial House of Representatives 4th District, 1935-36

Retired to Los Angeles, California.

Research:

In Ruby, Alaska:
Growden, William N. Sargent with the Signal Corp. Ran telegraph station 1922 on (source P 46). (Source P 16). 1928 (Source P 4). 1930 (Source P 4)

Growden, William N. — of Ruby, Yukon-Koyukuk census area, Alaska. Democrat. Member of Alaska territorial House of Representatives 4th District, 1935-36. Presumed deceased. Burial location unknown.
http://politicalgraveyard.com/bio/grovenor-guert.html


Last Modified: 7 May 2010

Identity theft and family history

One of the families I am interested in is Growden, and so I was interested in this article Identity thieves prey on everyone, advocate stresses | Local News | Cumberland Times-News:

Last week, a LaVale woman arrived home from her vacation in Virginia Beach, Va., to find charges on her credit card from ITunes. She did some further research and discovered other charges from a bank overseas. Somewhere, on her otherwise restful vacation, a thief had stolen her credit card number and made fraudulent charges. The local woman became the latest victim of identity theft. It happened that quickly.

“And that woman was me,” said Desiree Growden, the coordinator of the local Communities Against Senior Exploitation program. A national effort, CASE was launched in 2002 in Denver and introduced to Allegany County through the local state’s attorney’s office in 2009. Growden said the intent of the CASE program is to educate people on the dangers of identity theft.

Actually, “identity theft” is something of a misnomer. The danger here is not so much identity theft, as impersonation, or as it is sometimes called in criminal law, personation. To personate someone is to assume their identity with intent to deceive. To impersonate someone is a more everyday thing, and not necessarily done with criminal intent. So, for example one gets Elvis impersonators. But what is sometimes called “identity theft” is actually, in most cases, personation.

I’ve often read scare stories about “identity theft”, and have found that it is usually a question of simple personation. Someone who has pretended to be you has bought goods in your name, so that the account goes to you. Or they have withdrawn money from your bank account, pretending to be you.

Identity theft is a lot more serious. If someone steals something from you, you no longer have the use of it. If someone steals your car, you can’t drive anywhere, but have to walk. If someone steals your identity, you are no longer you, or at least no one believes you are you. This is the kind of thing that sometimes happens in science fiction or horror stories – a man goes on a journey and returns home to find that someone has stolen his identity, and is living in his house, with his wife, and his children call the stranger “daddy”, and no longer recognise their real father. That is identity theft, and of course it is personation as well. But someone who personates you in order to withdraw money from your bank account has stolen your money, not your identity. You are still you.

But there are scams that involve identity theft, and they were quite common a few years ago. One was when someone personates you to take out a life insurance policy on your life. Then they get a forged death certificate, and claim on the policy. And they might try to do several other things with it. And suddenly, to a lot of people, you are no longer you, because “you” are dead. In that kind of case, your identity really has been stolen, because even if you know who you are, nobody believes you.

But whether it is simple personation, or actual identity theft, it is still nasty, and something one needs to take precautions against.

How does it affect family history?

One example is that went I moved to where I am living now, I opened a bank account at a local bank, and on the application form I had to give my mother’s maiden name. They didn’t say why they wanted it, but I later discovered that if someone came into the bank claiming to be me, the bank would allow them to operate my account if they could tell the bank my mother’s maiden name. Now that was really stupid on the part of the bank. They thought it provided security and would make it harder for scammers to personate their clients. But family historians know the maiden names of most of the mothers in their family, and are anxious to find out the rest. So using the mother’s maiden name as a security question was really stupid. I think the banks have learnt a few lessons since then, and are not quite so naive about it. But if at the time they had told me that that was why they wanted me to put my mother’s maiden name on the application form, I could have told them how stupid it was.

If one is putting a family tree in a public place, like a web site, then most programs that create them allow one to avoid showing full information about living persons, and it is wise to do that, precisely because of the danger of personation.

We have a Growden family internet forum, with a mailing list, and a place to exchange files and photographs and to share information throuigh databases. But it is a “members only” forum. You have to say what your interest in the family is before you can join.

I have sometimes had requests from complete strangers, asking me to send them all the information on the Xxxx family. My response to such requests is to ask how they are linked to that family, and whether they are related, and what their relationship is. If they can show that they actually are related, then I will gladly share family history information with them, but it must be a two-way thing. I won’t give my research unless they are prepared to give me theirs. The ones who simply ask for “all the information” on the Xxxx family” might be naive newbies, who pick a branch of a family that isn’t really theirs, and latch on to it, or else they are scammers looking for information to try to personate someone in the family for criminal purposes. So my rule is, don’t share your family information with people who aren’t prepared to share theirs with you. If you take reasonable precautions like that, you are unlikely to fall victim to personation because of your family history.

The greater danger is phishing, with phony e-mails pretending to be from your bank or something, and asking for your account and password details. I got one like that yesterday.

Dear Customer,
Absa bank technical department will be carrying out a systematic
upgrade on our Network server from 7am today to 5am tomorrow morning to
avoid hackers from accessing your online account.
To take your account through this update process,
Please click on the link below

https://ib.absa.co.za/ib/tvn_upgrade

*Note. Absa Bank will not be responsible for loss of funds to online Phishers
as a result of failure to comply with this new directive.
You will also need to verify your TVN upon request.
Thank You

But hovering the cursor over the URL they asked you to click on showed this:

http://thoughtbroker.com.au/upgrades.absa/absa-banking-update/logonform.do/ibank-login.php

Now why would a South African bank (where I don’t have an account anyway) have an address at a web site called “thoughtbroker.com.au”? That’s a dead giveaway, and it’s as phishy as hell.

And some of the phishers are even more naive, and send their bogus messages from webmail addresses like gmail or yahoo. No reputable bank would send a message from an address like that, though some of the victims of the phishers are apparently even more naive, and fall for that sort of thing.

To get back to family history: be careful, but don’t be paranoid. Within the last month I’ve made contact with four distant cousins, in either my family or my wife’s, because they discovered links either on this blog or on one of our other family web sites. And because we’ve agreed to share information, once we have established the links, we’ve learnt a lot more about hitherto unknown branches of our family, and so have they about theirs. If we’d been over-suspicious, we might have missed a lot.

But a few years ago I had a couple of strange and rather frustrating encounters with over-suspicious family history researchers. One (no names, no pack drill) complained that I had posted information about “their” family (which was mine as well) on the web, and said I ought to have informed them of this, when I hadn’t even known they existed. But they themselves had posted family history queries on all sorts of web sites and magazines, without informing me, and it was in fact through one of the queries that they had posted in a magazine that I had managed to make contact with them at all, and discovered descendants of a branch of the family that connected with mine in the 1830s. They mentioned concerns about identity theft, but posting family details from the 1830s is hardly likely to help identity thieves, and they had posted more than I had. It was rather sad, because by sharing information we could probably both advance our research.

Another example was even more strange and frustrating was correspondence with someone I knew only as “visionir”, and was researching the Stooke family. I mentioned which branch I was interested in, and got this reply:

I have that branch quite straight and have been in contact with the
descendants of the children Mary and Sarah.
The William I am claiming was 7, in Love Street, Clifton in 1851.
His father was Thomas age 38 born Westbury, Salop.

The Mary in question was my great grandmother, Mary Barber Stooke who married William Allen Hayes, and the Sarah was her sister. I didn’t have that branch quite straight, and wasn’t in contact with their descendants, and would dearly love to learn more, but “visionir” wasn’t telling. In that case I don’t think it was oversuspiciousness or malice, but just being rather scatty and disorganised, and assuming that everyone already knew everything that they knew. Eventually I did manage, about 10 messages later, to get out of him/her that Sarah Stooke had married someone called Charlie Parker who kept a pub in Bristol. And I wasn’t able to help “visionir” much because the information he/she gave was too disconnected to make any sense of.

In neither of these cases did the people concerned use computers to keep track of their genealogy, though they did use the Internet to contact others. This led to some weird assumptions. For example the first lot took offence that my genealogy program put my contact address at the bottom of a family group sheet I sent them to show what I had on that branch of the family. They accused me of “claiming” their research. I think that is carrying the hermeneutic of suspicion too far.

New Growden marriage discovery

I’ve found a possible marriage in FreeBMD for Elizabeth Ann Growden (RIN 3976), my great-grandfather’s older sister.

Marriages Mar 1869   (>99%)
GROWDEN     Elizabeth Ann          Bodmin     5c    122
Kendall           Nicholas Dunn     Bodmin     5c    122
PARSONS     Elizabeth                Bodmin     5c    122
Sturtridge          Thomas                Bodmin     5c    122

It seems to be confirmed by FreeCen 1871:

Piece: RG10/2268 Place: Mevagissey -Cornwall Enumeration District: 1
Civil Parish: Mevagissey Ecclesiastical Parish: -
Folio: 13 Page: 18 Schedule: 105

Where her age fits with Elizabeth Ann Growden (b. 1849)

They are in the 1871 Census as Kendall, but in the 1881 Census the spelling is Kendle, which appears to be an enumerator’s or transcriber’s mistake. I could find no trace of them in the 1891 census — perhaps they had moved away, or it hasn’t been fully transcribed yet.

My great-grandfather, William Matthew Growden (he later used the spelling Growdon, as did all his South African descendants) came to the Cape Colony in about 1876 to build the railway line from East London  to the interior.

At the time of the 1861 Census he was living at 3 Higher Bore Street, Bodmin, aged 10, with his father Matthew, aged 61, his mother Christiana, aged 51, his step-brother Thomas Pope, aged 23, his sister Elizabeth Ann (12), and brothers Mark (7) and Simeon (5).

Higher Bore Street, Bodmin, Cornwall (Photo taken 5 May 2005).

His brother Simeon died a couple of years later at the age of 8, and Mark died at the age of 28, within a few months of his marriage to Elizabeth Dymond. So I didn’t expect to find any relatives from that generation, so it was quite exciting to find a possible marriage for great-grand aunt Elizabeth Ann, and they appear to have had four children by the 1881 census, so there are possibly more third cousins just waiting to be discovered!

Not far from Higher Bore Street is Scarlett’s Well, where the family lived at the 1851 census, and I can imagine the children playing in these leafy lanes after school, or helping their father gather wood (which, as a woodman, was how he earned his living).

ScarWell

Near Scarlett's Well, Bodmin

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