My grandfather, Percy Hayes

When we were on holiday recently we stopped at Paulpietersburg to visit my grandfather’s grave. It is unmarked, but I know where it is, because back in 1977, when we were living in Utrecht, we went with my mother to  Paulpietersburg. When we got there we had lunch in the hotel. Then we went to the municipal offices, and asked if they had a plan of the graves in the cemetery, and the man who was probably the parks and gardens department came along to the cemetery with us, bringing the town traffic cop with him, and together we located the grave of my grandfather, Percy Wynn Hayes. He was buried next to Dr Lipscomb, who had treated him in his last illness, and was a great buddy of his, coming from Devon. Mum said that when they came for his funeral, they said he and a lot of old men used to meet and put their stamp collections together. We returned via Bivane and Viljoenspos, after going up the mountain to look at the Dumbe mine. We asked to look at the staff records, but the office was closed by the time we got there.

Paulpietersburg cemetery: Percy Hayes’s grave is just to the left of the two Lipscomb graves in the picture, which belong to Dr Lipscomb and his wife (who died a few months before my grandfather).

Percy Hayes died on 6 May 1948, and I remember travelling to his funeral from Ingogo via Utrecht and Vryheid. I was 7 years old at the time. We asked about the location of his grave nearly 30 years later, and that seemed an impossibly long time ago. Yet 1977 is now longer ago than 1948 was back then.

Lipscomb graves and Percy Hayes’s grave with Dumbe mountain in the background

Paulpietersburg is at the foot of the Dumbe mountain, and Percy Hayes was mine secretary of the Dumbe Colliery there. In earlier years, between the Anglo-Boer War and the Second World War, he had been a stockbroker in Johannesburg. There is more information about him on our Family Wiki here.

 

Frank Wynn Hayes (my father) with his father, Percy Wynn Hayes (my grandfather)

One of the minor mysteries of this branch of the family is where the name Wynn came from.

My mother told me it was an old family name, and very important. My father, Frank Hayes, and his sisters Vera and Doreen all had Wynn as a middle name. So did Percy — when he died. My father, when he died in 1989, had even taken to hyphenating it, and called himself Frank Wynn-Hayes.

But on his birth certificate Percy Hayes is listed as plain Percy Hayes. He was born in Bedminster, Bristol, England on 4 August 1874, and I’ve been looking, so far without success, for his baptism in Bedminster or Bristol churches. Not that it will help much, because English Anglican baptism registers, unlike South African ones, do not record the names of the sponsors (godparents). I wonder if one of his godparents might have been named Wynn, or if it was someone he had encountered whom he particularly admired. Certainly we have not discovered any earlier member of the family who bears that name. He grew up in Axbridge, Somerset, where his parents ran the Red Lion Hotel, and came to South Africa shortly before the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902).

 

Hayes in North Curry, Somerset

After my recent post about my “brick wall” in genealogical research on my great great great grandfather Simon Hayes, who was born in North Curry, Somerset about 1784, someone drew my attention to the fact that there is a “Hayes Cottage” in North Curry.
I wish I’d known that when we visited North Curry six years ago. And if I were a millionnaire I’d buy it and move there like a shot.

HayesCottage.pdf Download this file

My brick wall: Simon Hayes of Winscombe

Genealogists often speak of a “brick wall” when they get stuck in their research and can get back no further than a certain ancestor. I’ve seen some complaining that they have been doing genealogy for a month, and have hit a brick wall. If that is a brick wall, then ours must be a concrete wall with razor wire on top, comparable with the Berlin Wall or the Israel Palestine one, because ours has been there for 35 years.
When we started investigating our family history in 1974 we got back fairly quickly on the Hayes side to my great great great grandfather Simon Hayes. He appeared as the father on his children’s marriage certificates, and census records showed that he was born in North Curry, Somerset some time between 1782 and 1786. And there we got stuck.
He doesn’t appear in the parish registers for North Curry, nor for those of nearby parishes like Stoke St Gregory or Durston. At some point he moved to Winscombe, where he married Rachel Allen in 1814. Her sister Hannah married Giles Williams in Meare, Somerset, in 1817, and Simon Hayes was staying with Giles Williams in the 1851 census. Occasionally we have found references to cousins or nephews and nieces, and thought they might give a clue, but they always turn out to be related on the Allen side, and not the Hayes side. In North Curry parish there is a record of a William Hayes who married a Charlotte Nott in 1796. He might possibly have been a brother or cousin of Simon Hayes, but until we can find some record of their parents it will be impossible to know. Any useful suggestions on how to break down this concrete wall will be welcome.

HayesSi1.pdf Download this file

Purnell and Allen families of Somerset

Several years ago, when looking at HAYES family records I found the 1851 census entry for John Hayes, at 11 North Street, Bedminster, Bristol. He was my great great grandfather’s brother, and he and his wife Margaret had been born at Winscombe, as had their son William. There was a daughter, Mary, and his mother Rachel, aged 64. Then an Elena PURNELL, listed as a cousin, a dressmaker aged 17, who was born in Bedminster.

For a long time I puzzled about this Elena Purnell, until a transcription of the Winscombe parish registers became available, and revealed that an Ann PURNELL, daughter of James and Ann had been baptised in Winscombe in 1827.

Rachel HAYES’s maiden name was ALLEN, and she had a younger sister Ann, who thus could have been the wife of James PURNELL, though there was no record of their marriage, and no sign of Elena.

This was confirmed by the 1841 census of Bedminster, where Ann PURNELL was listed as the head of the house, with a daughter Ann aged 13 (thus the right age to be born in 1827) and with them were Simon and Rachel Hayes. But no Elena. Nevertheless, it did show that John HAYES (son of Simon and Rachel) did have PURNELL cousins.

I then saw a transcription of the 1851 census entry, where the transcriber had listed Elena PURNELL as Clara TURNEL. I checked the original again, and yes, what I took to be Elena could be Clara. So I checked the IGI, and found a Clara Purnell baptised at St Philip and St Jacob in Bristol on 21 July 1833, with parents James and Ann. It was a patron-submitted record, with no source provided, but seems plausible enough.

That solved my original mystery — where did John HAYES and his brothers get a cousin “Elena” from. The answer was from their mother’s sister, and she wasn’t “Elena” but Clara.

But it still leaves, or rather raises, some more questions — like

  • When and where did James PURNELL and Ann ALLEN marry?
  • Where was Clara at the 1841 census (when she would have been 7)?
  • Where did the mysterious James PURNELL hang out, or did he just pop into existence to beget kids, and then disappear again?
  • Where were the elder and younger Ann Purnell in the 1851 and later censuses?

If anyone spots them in the wild, please let me know.

More here, with a family group sheet.

Tombstone Tuesday: Hayes in North Curry

For over thirty years now I’ve been up against the proverbial brick wall in my Hayes family from Somerset.

My great great great grandfather Simon Hayes (or Hays) was born in North Curry, Somerset, England, about 1785, according to the 1851 and 1861 censuses. But I’ve not been able to find any record of who his parents or siblings (if any) were.

There are people with the Hayes surname buried in North Curry, like the following couple, may may be related to me, but there is no way of telling until we can get more information about the earlier generations. Until then, they are “maybe cousins”.

Hayes grave in North Curry churchyard

Hayes grave in North Curry churchyard

We visited the church about four years ago, and took the photo then. Our Simon Hayes moved to Winscombe, where he was an agricultural labourer,  and there he married Rachel Allen and had four sons: William Allen, John, Sander, and James Andrews. William Allen died young, and the others moved to Bristol where they married and had families. Sander was a vendor of milk and coal, while the other two were carpenters and builders.

I wonder if any of them knew James and Ellen, and if they regarded them as family or not.

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