Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Geoffs Genealogy Update 31 August 2010

There I was, looking to do a bit of treeing on the August Bank Holiday Monday. When I attempted to log on to the internet there was nothing!

OK, I thought, it will probably repair itself in a while, but by the evening we still had no connection, and there was nothing obviously wrong at our end. I phoned my supplier, who attended to my call with great politeness, but the remedies they prescribed didn't work, and thus I am now waiting for them to test the line. It is all very frustrating, and serves to remind us of how much we take the wonders of modern technology for granted.

In the meantime, I am preparing to write a long-overdue letter to Jim, my Collyer cousin in the USA. Jim has treated me to much information about his branch of the Collyer dynasty, and I really feel quite guilty that I have not really given him much in response. I'm therefore spending some time preparing what I hope will be a sizeable package of treeing goodies relevant to his interests. In these circumstances we often turn to our old friend Robert Hanham Collyer (1814- abt 1891) and this time is no exception.

I thought that before selecting the material to send to Jim I should update RHC's record on my database, so I've been giving attention to dealing with that pile of paper that I've had on the shelf for about eighteen months. I've now almost completed that job, and thus can see laid out on screen the full extent of our knowledge about this man. This is by no means the whole picture, as every time I type his name into Google and carry out a search I find more references listed that there was the last time I did it. There is plenty more to dig into in future, assuming I have an internet connection!

I've written before about this absolutely remarkable individual - I use the word in its proper sense, as he truly was an INDIVIDUAL!

For the benefit of those who aren't familiar with RHC, I would just outline his career by saying that he was born on the channel Island of Jersey in 1814. From 1833 to 1835 he was a medical student at London University, before emigrating with his parents and siblings to the USA. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1836 on the vessel Kensington.

He then obtained his medical degree at Berkshire Medical Institution, Pittsfield, Massachussetts, and embarked on his career proper.

He was a leading advocate of mesmerism and phrenology, having studied under Elliotson and Spurzheim, and toured the US and Europe lecturing and giving demonstrations of these techniques. He also claimed to have discovered anaesthesia, and was annoyed that he had not been credited with this achievement. He claimed to have carried out surgical operations, including the dislocation of a hip, and the extraction of teeth, and actually incorporated tooth pulling into his lecturing performances!

It is evident that he was blessed with a very fertile mind, being responsible for a large number of scientific inventions, including a gold crushing machine (in 1854) and an " Improved mode of preparing the residue of beet root, mangel-wurtzel & c., left after sugar-making and distillation, to be used as a material in making paper" (abt 1856). Quite a range there!

He wrote many published works, mainly on the subject of mesmerism and phrenology, but possibly his best known literary work was Lights and Shadows of American Life, published in 1838, a description of his initial tour of the the USA.

Although a naturalised American, Collyer spent a great deal of time outside his adopted country, and can often be spotted in the English records. In fact, he appears to have been based in London from about 1855 to about 1877.

His private life was a tangled one, to say the least. We know of at least five female partners or wives, although we have only traced two marriages, both of which took place in England. One of these marriages was to a sixteen year old girl. Collyer admitted to being 41 at the time, but in fact he was 50! The marriage produced two children before the then Mrs Collyer realised that her husband had a previous spouse who was still alive! She sued for an anullment of the marriage, which she was granted in London in 1873.

In 1838 he came to suspect that his then wife was having a liaison with Captain Marryat, the author of the book Children of the New Forest. He hid under the bed in his Louisville hotel, and when the couple arrived in the room, and started doing what people do in these situations, he emerged from under the bed and confonted them. Imagine the scene! Captain Marryat concocted a very thin alibi for his actions, and the newspapers had a fine time over the affair. However, in the event, the good Captain and Collyer resolved the matter without the need of a duel or a court case, and the affair died down.

There are many other aspects of Robert Hanham Collyer's life that I have not mentioned, many of which you would certainly find most interesting. This man has continually surprised us for the past 15 years or so, and we are quite sure that there is still plenty more for us to discover. He was dismissed as a quack and a charlatan by many people, and one can see why. That said, he was obviously a very talented man.

Jim, you have a treat in store for you!


Oh, by the way, my internet connection has been repaired, so I can now upload this post!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Geoffs Genealogy Update 16 August 2010

Those of you who have a Facebook presence will probably be interested to know that we now have a Bankes Descendants Facebook group. You can join the group by clicking here.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Geoff's Genealogy Update 09 August 2010

I've just returned from a week in the wonderfully beautiful Aveyron department of France. Mostly good weather, lovely food and lots of interesting places to visit. What could be better?

Treeing has taken a bit of a back seat in the past few weeks, but I have one or two items that hopefully may interest you.

A few months ago I bought a new genealogy computer program, with a view to updating the software I use to keep my family history records. I have always used Family Tree Maker, which I have found to be very user friendly. I have, however, always had reservations about its reporting features, as I have found them rather limited. My new acquisition is Family Tree Maker 2010. This version of FTM is radically different from the 2006 version that I have been using, so much so that I have shied away from using it, fearing that my precious treeing time will be taken up in getting accustomed to it.

Well, as an intermediate step I have put the new program on my laptop, and having played around with it for an hour or so my initial impression is that it seems an improv ement on previous versions. It will take a few days to find my way around it properly, but the reports appear to offer much more flexibility, and the on-screen space is used far more effectively than previously. The program also offers a number of new tools, such as a mapping facility to show you where your forebears lived. I feel fairly confident that I shall be using this program as my main genealogy package before too long.

It may be of interest to you if I mention acouple of websites that have recently come to my attention, which I think could be of great help in our research.

Firstly, not exactly new, but of great value is the online Welsh wills section of the National Library of Wales website. Here you can see the actual wills of your Welsh ancestors whose probates were dealt with in the Welsh ecclesiastical courts up to 1858, free of charge. The search mechanism is easy to use, and you can view and / or print out the wills free of charge. I've already found a few interesting specimens that relate to people on the Welsh branch of the Bankes Pedigree.

Actually, I have a bit of a problem with one of these wills. Information from the Bankes Pedigree Book tells me that Charles Davies, spouse of Elizabeth Price (Abt 1753-1833), daughter of John Price and Deborah Rand, died in October 1817. I have found a will that seems to fit
with that information. However, the frustrating thing is that there is a distinct shortage of names mentioned in this document, so it is not possible to say positively whether or not this was our man. I don't think this will was drawn up very well, as it was very loosely worded and lacked personal detail to identify the beneficiaries, but presumably it served the purpose.

London Lives 1680-1800 is a really great user-friendly website for those of us whose interests lie in the Capital in the eighteenth century. To quote from the website:

"London Lives makes available, in a fully digitised and searchable form, a wide range of primary sources about eighteenth-century London, with a particular focus on plebeian Londoners. This resource includes over 240,000 manuscript and printed pages from eight London archives and is supplemented by fifteen datasets created by other projects. It provides access to historical records containing over 3.35 million name instances. Facilities are provided to allow users to link together records relating to the same individual, and to compile biographies of the best documented individuals..."

I've done some preliminary searches on this site, and found some references that I'm pretty sure relate to my ancestor - James Jacobson (Abt 1692-1759) in the parish chest records of St Botolph, Aldgate, so it's well worth giving this a go.

My mention, in my last blog entry, of my search for the Gearys in the censuses and civil registration records led my cousin Pat to do a bit of delving - with very successful results. Thanks to Pat I now know that in 1911 Thomas Geary was living in Bath, Somerset, in the household of Frances Hill, a spinster neice, who was aged 72. In fact, apart from Thomas and two female servants, the household consisted of three other spinster relations, ages ranging from 46 to 71. Th
e entry showed that Thomas was a widower, thus giving me a starting point in the search for the death of his wife - Louisa (Hunt) Geary.

I found what looks like Louisa's death entry in the civil registration indexes in the March quarter of 1903, the death being registered at St Albans, Hertfordshire. Due to the prohibitive cost of B/M/D certificates I have not sent for the certificate, but I would be amazed if this were not the relevant entry. There are no other entries for a Louisa Geary in the period 1901-1911, and the age ties up as well. I wonder what the Gearys were doing in St Albans. maybe there were more relations in that area.

Next I set out to find the death of Thomas Geary, sometime after March 1911. I looked at The Times Digital Archive Online website, which is often accessible via your local library, and although I could not find a death announcement, I did find a most interesting item in the Points from Letters column of 27 May 1922. Headed A Link With 1770, it reads:

'Lieutenant-Colonel Drage's account of his link with 1787 is an interesting one, which I can comparewith that of my own great-uncle, Mr Thomas Geary, barrister-at-law, who was born in 1828 and died at Bath in 1916. His father was born in 1770, and the two lives, therefore, covered a period of 146 years between them. Should my youngest brother, Rev B H Geary, VC, or any of the younger members of my father's family, reach an advanced old age, a period of over two hundred years will have been covered by the three lives, as the above brother is only thirty-one now. - Mr A Bernard Geary, Sports Club, St James's-square, SW.'


This set me off looking for Thomas Geary's death entry in the civil registration indexes. I found it in 1914, not 1916. His death was registered in Bath during the March quarter of that year.

So there we are, another gap in the Bankes Pedigree is filled in.


Happy hunting to one and all until the next time.