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,
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.

7 Responses

  1. i like this – interesting story, engages the attention, show tenancity in face of difficult searching conditions – and leaves somethiong for the reader to get their teeth into.

  2. Hiya, thks for sharing. Those comments “Hope to be married shortly” are incredibly bold. This is funny!

  3. […] Devon, and wonderded 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 […]

    • Hello. I am Stephen Rendel’s great granddaughter (Doris was my grandma). He was a mysterious man who became estranged from his family after working in Peru. My father did meet him once. Do contact me for further info. Regards Sarah White

  4. I recently came across this page on RootsWeb investigating Lionel Leigh Stooke aka Stephen ‘Rendall’ or Rendel


    …I was very interested to read the information and wondered if you would like to know some more about him

    My grandfather on my Mother’s side was known to us as Stephen Rendel. He married Elsie Bowden, my grandmother who had nursed him when he was wounded in WW1. They had a daughter, my Mother, Doris Stephanie Rendel in the UK and sailed and worked in Argentina and eventually traveled to Peru where Stephen worked as an engineer on the Trans-Andean railways. They had another daughter, my aunt, Pamela Rendel who is still alive in an Exeter nursing home in Devon.

    After some years in Argentina and Peru where Stephen and Elsie reputedly lead quite a social life of comfort in Callao and later Iquitos. I believe that Stephen then got into some considerable debt due to his gambling and as my Mother used to tell us he ran off with the company money and abandoned Elsie and her two daughters. Elsie had to return to England with her family and support them through school and college from her earnings as a private nurse. She never remarried and never saw Stephen again in her lifetime.

    My first meeting with Stephen Rendel, my grandfather, was when I was about 12 years old and my mother and father introduced me to a ‘Mr Stephens’. He was a spitting image of Hitler with a toothbrush mustache and quiff of white hair falling over his forehead. He gave my sister Hilary (now known as Polly) and myself a half a crown coin each and left, as I recall, never to be seen again by his grandchildren.

    He was still drawing his State Pension and my mother had traced him to an old peoples’ home in Chelmsford through Social Security. She told us he was suffering from dementia and had been a tramp on British roads for about 6 years before he was eventually taken into care. Elsie was so bitter about him, that my parents did not want her to know they had traced and had been in touch with him. She never found out they had. We were finally told who he was when he died a couple of years later aged 85 and . I think Elsie died a little later, though I may be mistaken about who died first.

    My daughter, Sarah Louise White has recently been contacted by Tony Meyer who is, I understand, another member of the family researching Stephen Rendel as we knew him.
    name so often and his invented life history. I think all his male descendants seem to have inherited the fact that he was a bit of a rogue and a wanderer, here’s hoping we got the best genes.

    Regards from Paul Limrick White

    • Thanks very much for these comments. I’ve written to you directly, as there is far more than can be put into a comment!

  5. Dear Steve, hope all is well with you. I am now living in French Canada with my third wife Jessica Trinity. My Father Anthony John Killingworth White died aged 72 in 1985. My Mother Doris Stephanie died aged 87 in 2007. My Sister Hilary known as ‘Polly’ is still alive in the St Albans area. My two children are Sarah White and Thomas White. Sarah is married and lives near Cambridge with my 2 grandchildren children Sebastian and Isobel. Thomas is unmarried and has been living and teaching English in South Korea.

    I still have no definitive proof why my grandfather Stephen changed his name but suspect it was because he had been in considerable debt due to gambling in South America and had tried to cover his tracks back to the UK when he abandoned his wife and 2 children in Peru. He may also have stolen money from the railway engineering company for whom he had worked.

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