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Chasing down those Fairfax Ancestors….. June 16, 2017

Posted by Robbie in Musings.
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Some time ago I wrote about tracing back the women in my family especially as the name Fairfax had popped up as a middle name throughout the generations.  Currently I’m having a little break from study – next semester’s units don’t start for a few weeks yet – so I thought I would continue the task begun with the unraveling of those Fairfax, Kirkby and Welch intermarriages.

Rigorous examination of the marriages of the various daughters over the generations have revealed quite a few more Fairfax middle names as well as a whole new (to me) branch.

My 4x Great Grandfather, Benjamin Fairfax (b 1758) married twice – to Dorothy Kirkby (b 1766) and to her younger sister Mary (b 1768).  Mary became my step 4x G grandmother as well as already being my 4x great aunt.  Mary gave Benjamin two more children to add to the five borne by Dorothy.  Those two children became cousins as well as half aunts and uncles.

Following down and across the generations,  I’ve discovered a whole raft of family out there – a family that supported and cohabited across three generations when the child bearing aged women didn’t survive. Benjamin’s daughter Charlotte (b 1789) lived to ripe old age of 82 and over time, took in her nephews and nieces, her widowed brother and his grandchildren.  All this time, she was herself kept busy as a grocer and storekeeper in Mile End Old Town.

For a short period around 1841, she was living with two of the Richardson sisters in Wellclose Square, daughters of my 4x great Grandfather, David (b 1746) and one of his other wives (he had four!)  The Richardson family lived in Wellclose Square in Wapping right through the 1800’s and possibly longer – that’s another piece of detective work that awaits.

I had managed to bring  most of the lines down to the period covering the first and second world wars, so I thought I would look for any that had served and had not come home.

I found Henry James Fairfax (b 1859).  Henry was the great grandson of Benjamin and Mary and that made him my 3rd cousin twice removed.  Henry was the eldest of seven children – and like the rest of the family was ‘in the trade’ – he was, for most of his working life, a grocer’s assistant. His father had been a commercial traveller as was one brother and their interests lay in spices and ‘farinous materials’ – that’s flour to you and me!

Henry never married and remained living with his mother and other unmarried siblings until at least 1911.  There must have been a touch of the mid life crisis happening as he made a complete shift into the Merchant Marine and became a steward on a steam freighter.  He was certainly too old to have been considered for active service at the outbreak of WW1.

Extracted from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission files

 

Henry was a Londoner – its probable he couldn’t swim.  He was the only casualty when his cargo ship, the Peninsula, was torpedoed by U-46 and sunk in the Bay of Biscay on 25th July 1917.  Henry’s name can be found on the Merchant Marine memorial, Tower Hill. He was 57 years old.

 

 

 

Tracing Back Women September 6, 2015

Posted by Robbie in Musings.
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It has always struck me how much harder it is to track the female lines in families.  English and Australian marriage conventions have ‘dictated’ that women discard their birth surname in preference for that of their husbands…… subsequent baptisms and deaths, wills and probate documents often give no clue to the woman’s forebears as her birth surname has been erased from formal records.

In researching the history of my maternal grandmother, Dorothy Una Ophelia Richardson, I had always wondered about the middle names of her brothers: being Fairfax and Kirkby.  I surmised that both these names may well have been the surnames of mothers, grandmothers or perhaps even great grandmothers.

Many hours of research over the years has indeed proved that both names are surnames of previous generations and had been diligently preserved as a family naming tradition – one that has been unfortunately lost in my own generation and those following as my family had no knowledge of this when our own children and grandchildren needed names.

I am quite aware that one shouldn’t “assume” when researching back through the generations but I used the “Fairfax” second naming pattern as a clue as to where to look, after all, its a much less common name in a naming pattern than perhaps something like William or John as the first born son’s name.  It was an especially relevant pattern to follow when it popped up as a second name for females.  Fairfax was the maiden surname of my 3X great grandmother, Mary (b. 1790).  She named her eldest daughter and my 2x great grandmother, Dorothy Fairfax Welch (b 1814). 

Dorothy’s children continued the naming pattern – David (b 1839) beginning his own tradition by naming his first born with the surname of his wife’s family. William Andrew (b.1852 & my g grandfather) named his eldest child, Roy Fairfax (b 1890) and Roy carried it through with one of his sons also named Roy Fairfax (b 1917). David’s granddaughter Ida (b 1904) also carried the Fairfax middle name.

Mary’s son, Andrew named one of his daughters Henrietta Fairfax (b abt 1866)  but he also began his own family naming tradition using his wife’s surname as a middle name for three of his children.

Others of Mary’s children weren’t so rigorous. It took two generations for the descendants of Mary’s daughter, Mary before the Fairfax name was resurrected – but her g grandson Harry (b 1877) bears the Fairfax middle name.

Using this clue as a search criteria has helped to reconstruct the broader family and has helped to work out where all the various generations fit. To make things a little more ‘interesting’, there was the odd second marriage thrown in to complicate things.

Chasing back the Kirkby connection was a little more fraught.  I reasoned that Kirkby must have been a female forebear at some time but there was not the same naming pattern showing up.  My Gran’s brother was the only one I had found that had this middle name.  Fairfax had been carried down mainly through one branch of the family – perhaps Kirkby came from the other side?

Paying close attention to Mary Fairfax (b 1790) and establishing her parentage led to the first Kirkby – her mother, Dorothy (b 1766).  Another girl popped up around this time but she was married into the Richardson side of the family, Frances (Fanny) Hanna (b 1784).  At first glance there didn’t seem to be any connection.  Complicating things even further, it seemed that Mary’s father Benjamin Fairfax (b 1758) had been married at least twice – and each time it had been to a Kirkby girl.

Finding the will of Samuel Kirkby – the father of Dorothy, Mary and also Frances Hanna – solved the puzzle.  His will runs to quite a number of pages and is quite detailed in the bequests and names of his children, both living and deceased, grandchildren, sons-in-law, and his wife. In naming his deceased daughter Dorothy as the “late wife” of Benjamin and Mary as the “now wife” of Benjamin Fairfax, some of the complexities were unraveled.

To discover that Fanny Kirkby (b 1784) [named as Hanna Richardson in the will], wife of James Richardson (b 1780), was also a part of this Kirkby family came as  quite a surprise.  The Richardson family was based in Wapping, Middlesex and the Kirkby family was from Hertfordshire – didn’t seem like they should have crossed paths but they did! James’ son David married Dorothy Fairfax Welsh.

Am I confused still?  A little – Samuel Kirkby and Elizabeth Deverill are my GGGG Grandparents through two separate branches of my ancestors.  I think.

Lesson?

Focused searching using clues like unusual surname-like middle names can reveal a great deal!

 

 

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