Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sunday's Obituary: Rev Joseph Bentley, 1840-1903

Bentley Joseph head

Rev Joseph Bentley was my great grandfather. He was born near Barnsley, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, in 1840 and died in Wimbledon, Surrey, in 1903. Joseph was a Wesleyan Methodist minister for 36 years. During this time he served Methodist communities in 17 different places in England, from Durham to Cornwall. The constant upheaval of moving from place to place must have made life very difficult for his wife, Emma, and seven children.

Munden Emma Bentley Joseph children

Joseph's obituary appeared in the 1904 Minutes and Yearbook of the Methodist Conference:

JOSEPH BENTLEY: born in August, 1840. He was converted at the age of eighteen, entered the ministry in 1864, and died on August 7th 1903. His life was chiefly spent in the Circuits of rural Methodism, where he laboured with much energy and zeal. He was loyal to our discipline, and endeavoured to inculcate that spirit among the people to whom he ministered. His preaching was generally appreciated, and his genial disposition won him many friends. The end of his life was shadowed by failing eyesight, which created much depression, but his faith in God and his trust in the atonement of Christ were unfailing.

Friday, 26 November 2010

All the nice girls love a sailor - 2

In Part 1 of this post I wrote about my husband's great great grandfather, Captain John Winn, a master mariner who disappeared in "North America" sometime between 1830 and 1848.

In trying to crack this major brick wall I have pursued many different lines of research. I began by reading this book, published by the Society of Genealogists:

My Ancestor was a Merchant Seaman

I then explored the following sources:


I cannot find John Winn in the 1841 or 1851 British censuses, the 1840 or 1850 US Federal censuses or the 1851 Canadian census.

Lloyds Registers of Shipping

These annual lists can be fully viewed on Google Books. I have extracted the names of all merchant ships with a captain or owner called Winn between 1807 and 1865. I have eliminated those vessels where I have been able to discover the captain's first name and it is not John. I've also eliminated those still sailing from British ports after 1848.

This leaves me with six captains & vessels:

  • 1811-12, Thirsk, J Winn, Hull coaster
  • 1822, Holland, Winn, Exeter coaster
  • 1830-33, Legatus, Winn, Sunderland, Bristol, Montreal
  • 1832-33, Kate, Winn, New Brunswick, London, Halifax
  • 1836-40, George Canning, Winn, Newcastle, Halifax, Bombay
  • 1841-44, Rainbow, Winn, London, Cape of Good Hope

Passenger Lists

There are three masters called Winn on the Ship's List website but, from the names of their ships, I have eliminated all three as being different people. The captain of the Legatus is also mentioned there, spelled Wynn. Using One-Step Webpages I turned up a John Winn, ship master, aged 35 years & 4 months, who arrived in New York from the Turks on board the schooner "Deposit" on 23 August 1836. However, he is described as US born & resident.

John Winn 1836 passenger list


I can find no will, and no action by the family to have him declared dead.

Records of Merchant Seamen

There are no records of merchant navy officers in the UK before 1845. I spent a day trawling through seamen's records and crew lists at the National Archives. There were many John Winns, all ordinary seamen, but nothing to identify my man.


I can find no reference to him (such as a missing person advert) in the British Library's 19th century newspaper collection.

Genealogy Bank turns up various references in US newspapers in the 1830s to John D Winn, captain of the Eliza from Salem, Massachusetts.


I can't find him listed as the captain of a ship that went down at any of the websites devoted to wrecks.

Where should I go next? Please leave your suggestions in the comments. I'll use them to draw up a future research strategy for Part 3 of this post.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Beards and Longevity

Lowe Dr John head

Dr John Lowe (1781-1866)

and sons

Lowe Dr Robert head Lowe George1902 head

Dr Robert Lowe

George Lowe

Lowe Tom1898 head LOWE JAMES HEAD (2)

Thomas Lowe

James Lowe

Monday, 22 November 2010

Amanuensis Monday - The insolent misbehaviour of one of my own tenants

Patrick Lyon, 3rd Earl of Kinghorne

This is an extract from a letter written by Patrick Lyon, 3rd Earl of Kinghorne (1643-1695) to James Ogilvy, 2nd Earl of Airlie (c1615-1703), in March 1670. It concerns my 7x great grandfather, Alexander Hood (d. 1729), the tenant of an estate called Readie in the parish of Glamis, Angus.

The Earl of Kinghorne's family had been virtually bankrupted by the Civil War and the Earl's Book of Record, dated 1684, shows that he had borrowed a large sum of money from Alexander Hood. This may explain the animosity between them. The Earl was ultimately successful in restoring the family's fortunes. One of his descendants was the late Queen Mother.

My Lord,

... excuse me for giving you the trouble of narrating the insolent misbehaviour of one of my own tennants, who obraided me in my face with an ordinary guilt of the breatch of word & write1 (A thing very inconsistent with A gentleman & which I hope non has reason to accuse me of). I believe the fellow said it in ignorance and wishes he had not said it, yet it being befor four or fyve2 as first spoke & for the terror of such, he being fugitive and disobedient to two severall lawfull charges to my Bailies Courts, I caused cease upon his person about fyve dayes agoe and had him as I thought in sure firmance3 till I should bring him to A forder condigne & exemplar4 punishment but this last night he has made his escape and I suppose may have his shalter among some of his wife's friendes who are of your name.5 So my Lord I shal entreat of you & accept of it as A peculiar favour that you will cause intimat to all your tennantry and dependers not to protect him by A glandestine6 keeping of such A person amongst them. He is A young man one Alexr Hood youngest son to the late John Hood in Readie. My Lord this will not only be an act of good neghbourhood but is for the maintenance of that authority which is the inherent right of landlords over ther own people betwixt whom non else ought to interest themselves. This I thought fitt to acquaint you with for preventing such misinformation as possibly might induce you to permitt his wife residence within your bounds, which I hope now you will positively discharge, the injury being against my person , in the way as I have related to you, upon the word of him who avouches to be

Your most affectionat & humble servant


Glamis 18 March 1670

I only apprehend that he shall lurke amongst the country people for I hope no gentleman will receive him.

National Archives of Scotland GD16/34/212

Amanuensis Monday is an idea I found on Geneabloggers.

1. breaking his word

2. in front of four or five witnesses

3. confinement

4. further suitable & exemplary punishment

5. Alexander's wife, Margaret, was an Ogilvy from Airlie

6. clandestine

A map showing the location of Airlie and Glamis in Angus (Forfarshire).

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Three times before breakfast

I’m currently reading Fearless on Everest, an excellent biography of mountaineer Sandy Irvine, who was lost on Everest with George Mallory in 1924. The author is Irvine’s great niece, Julie Summers.

I first came across Julie’s work when searching for information about my grandfather’s first cousin, Marjory Agnes Standish Thomson. (Marjory’s mother, Alethea Isabella Evans Davis, was the sister of my great-grandfather, Rev Alban Edgar Brunskill Davis. )

I knew that Marjory had married a man called Henry Hall Summers in 1917 and divorced him in 1925. I had even found an account of the divorce proceedings in The Times:
Summers nee Thomson Marjory 1925 divorce
Google led me to Julie’s website and her account of her involvement in the recent film about Mallory and Irvine, The Wildest Dream. (Narrated by Liam Neeson, it was Natasha Richardson’s last film before her tragic death in Canada in March 2009.)
Julie writes that:
Although National Geographic were relaxed about showing the corpse reconstruction, they balked at a tale I told of Sandy’s prowess.
Sandy Irvine had a brief but indiscreet love affair with Marjory Summers, the very much younger second wife of Harry Summers … Marjory, who had been a chorus girl when she married Harry at the age of 19, found life married to her stout, balding, fifty-two year old husband quiet. Dull even. … In a move of the utmost audacity she followed Sandy to Norway when he went with the Merton College Arctic expedition to Spitsbergen in July 1923.
I found Sandy’s diary from the expedition in the library at Merton College, Oxford …on the last night that they were on board … Sandy visited Marjory’s cabin at five o’clock in the morning and made love to her three times before breakfast.
This is not the sort of information you expect to find about your first cousin twice removed. Her mother came from a family of zealous high church Anglicans. Her father was an Elder Brother of Trinity House, a Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, and a friend of Prince Louis of Battenberg. What on earth was she doing as a chorus girl in 1917? Lying to a judge in 1925? But the black sheep of the family are invariably the most interesting. Julie’s website even provided me with a photograph of Marjory in a raffish hat:
I would highly recommend Fearless on Everest to anyone who is fascinated, as I am, by Mallory and Irvine’s attempt on Everest. The book has received excellent reviews.
I have not yet seen The Wildest Dream, which was released in the UK whilst I was in America. Have you seen it and, if so, what did you think? Is Marjory portrayed in the film?
Julie Summers tells me that Marjory does indeed feature in the film. If only I could track it down in a cinema near to my home. Perhaps one day it will come out on DVD?
Julie has also very kindly sent me some new photographs of Marjory. I think this one gives a much better idea why men like Henry Hall Summers and Sandy Irvine fell for her:
 Summers nee Thomson Marjory

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Beau Brummell of the Yard

John McCarthy, 1863-1927

My great-grandfather, John McCarthy (1863-1927) was a detective with the Metropolitan Police. Starting as a constable on the beat in Islington in 1881, by 1912 he had worked his way up to be Superintendent in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department at Scotland Yard. Along the way, he had some fascinating jobs and cases.

He joined CID in 1887 as a founder member of the newly reformed Special Branch. All Irishmen, they were responsible for secret political work at home and abroad, tackling the growing threat from anarchists and Fenians. In the early 1890s he spent a year in Le Havre in this capacity, watching for suspicious activity at the Channel ports and liaising with the French authorities.

Back in England he was sent to Bow Street as a uniformed Detective Sergeant, distinguishing himself in a famous murder case, the Muswell Hill murder. In 1896 he returned to CID and Special Branch and was  promoted to Inspector in 1901. During this time he regularly acted as a bodyguard for the Prince and Princess of Wales, Edward and Alexandra. With Edward’s accession to the throne in 1901, John McCarthy took over protection of the new Prince and Princess of Wales, later to be King George V and Queen Mary.

King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra and the Princess of Wales, later Queen Mary, are seated from right to left. The Prince of Wales, later King George V, is standing between his wife and mother.

In 1906 John became a Chief Inspector. He joined a special section focused on the violent activity of the suffragettes and also monitored the activities of exiled anarchists and revolutionaries such as Lenin. In January 1911, a series of anarchist murders culminated in the siege of Sidney Street. John  McCarthy was one of the senior Special Branch officers who advised the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, on the conduct of the siege.  After several hours the house caught fire and the anarchists stopped shooting. No one was sure if they were dead so the unarmed John McCarthy decided to investigate:

Accompanied by two fellow plain-clothes officers and keeping close in to the wall ... the burly McCarthy picked his way through the debris to the scarred front door … lifting his foot high, [he] kicked it open. As it swung back a great belch of flame roared out.

Only then did it become clear that nobody could still be alive inside. Scotland Yard later  commended his cool courage.

John McCarthy conferring with other senior officers during the Sidney Street siege

By all accounts he was a popular head of the CID. Contemporaries described him as "urbane and courteous" and he was so well dressed that he earned the nickname “Beau Brummell of the Yard". He also knew how to enjoy himself. In June 1914 he presided at the annual CID dinner. One of the guests was a former Special Branch officer who had joined the Russian Secret Service – the Okhrana. The programme for the evening's entertainment bizarrely found its way into their archives, where it survives to this day. We learn that, after an eight course meal,  John McCarthy and his men enjoyed a cabaret which included a ventriloquist, a highland dancer, a "Growing Man" and a song called "Willie took his Flo below".

His period in charge of CID included the First World War, with controversy over internment of enemy aliens and fears about the effects of war and air raids on civilian morale and loyalty. Special Branch expanded from 114 to 700 men and new departments were created to censor mail. In 1916 came the Easter Rising and from then on Ireland was at the top of Special Branch's agenda.

In March 1918 John McCarthy retired and was immediately reappointed as liaison officer between Special Branch and MI5, with a special suite of offices in Scotland Yard.  His role involved "an intimate knowledge of the movements of the various political sects in Ireland" and Scotland Yard said that "his services were of the greatest assistance to the authorities in this country". In recognition of those services, John McCarthy was awarded the OBE in the King's Birthday Honours List in June 1923.

John McCarthy leaving Buckingham Palace after collecting his MBE, 1923

Because of his undercover work, John McCarthy was on the IRA's death list and Scotland Yard took out an insurance policy on his life. In the event, he died of spinal cancer in September 1927. In the last weeks of his illness he had ordered his daughter to burn his diaries and other papers relating to his police career. Other Scotland Yard officers had published memoirs about their involvement in famous murder cases or anecdotes about their work as royal bodyguards.  John McCarthy's dying concern was not for his own reputation but for those ex-offenders who, having served their sentences, were trying to rebuild their lives and would be harmed if his account of their crimes were to be published.

All the nice girls love a sailor - 1

Marian Pierre-Louis has kindly publicised my search for the elusive Captain John Winn in her excellent Roots and Rambles blog, so I thought I’d start my blogging journey with him.

John Winn is my husband’s earliest known Winn ancestor and a huge stumbling block to tracing the family tree any further back in time. He first appears in the records with his marriage to Heneretta Tomlin on 5 October 1829 at St Mary-le-Bow, London, when he was stated to be “of this parish”. The witnesses to the marriage were Heneretta’s father, William Tomlin, and a so far unidentified man named John Nickless.

John Winn's marriage, 1829

John and Heneretta had only one child, William, baptised on 29 August 1830 at St Dunstan's, Stepney. The baptismal register shows that the family were living in Mile End Old Town and that John was a master mariner i.e. the captain of  a merchant ship.

William Winn 's baptism, 1830

I could not find John Winn in the 1841 census, which did not surprise me, given his occupation. Heneretta was living with her sister and brother-in-law, James and Mary Ann Horn, in Green Street, Bethnal Green, a short distance from her father’s business premises at Twig Folly, Bethnal Green. William Winn cannot be identified with any certainty, the most likely candidate being an 11 year old pupil at a boarding school in the township of Roby in Lancashire.

Heneretta’s father, William Tomlin, was a prosperous man, the owner of lighters and barges which transported coal from the docks at Limehouse along the Regent's Canal. His grandson, William Winn, would later take over the family business and eventually serve two terms as Master of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen. No formal apprenticeship records for William Winn can be found but it is likely that he served some sort of apprenticeship in the London docks, for which a baptismal certificate would be required.

It was probably in this way that Heneretta discovered that her unusual name had been wrongly recorded as Hannah in William’s baptismal entry. For on 25 February 1847 she swore a formal oath before the magistrates in the Thames Police Court, in order to get the entry corrected. In her affidavit she described herself as the “wife of John Winn of 6 Waterloo Terrace Commercial Road in the Parish of St Dunstan Stepney”.

Heneretta Winn's affidavit, 1847

Heneretta clearly still regarded herself as the wife of John Winn but that was not how her father saw things one year later. On 10 February 1848, William Tomlin wrote his will, in which he described his daughter as:

Heneretta Winn the wife or widow of John Winn who some years since went to North America and whose existence is uncertain.

William Tomlin's will, 1848

By the time of the 1851 census, William Winn described his mother as a widow:

Heneretta Winn, 1851 census

and when she made her own will on 9 July 1856, she did the same:

Henrietta Winn's will, 1856

but eight days later, when William Winn married, he made no mention of his father being dead:

William Winn's marriage, 1856

When Heneretta died in Southampton on 15 August 1857, her death certificate described her as the “widow of John Winn master mariner”.  That is the last mention of John Winn in any records I can find.

In Part 2 of this post I will describe the efforts I have made to find additional information about this wayward matelot, who appears to have no beginning and no end!


I’ve started this blog to share some of the fascinating stories I’ve uncovered during 25 years of researching my family history. I’m also aiming to share some tips on how I broke down “brick walls” in my genealogical research and point readers towards new sources of information for their own families.

Ancestral Places

My research interests are global – mainly in the UK but also in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India. From time to time I’ll focus on some of these ancestral places.


Ancestral Faces

I’m fortunate to have a wonderful collection of old family photographs. Some were given to me by my mother but many others have been shared by generous cousins around the world. Using some of these ancestral faces, I’ll show how the clues in a family photograph can lead to new avenues of research and fascinating new information about the lives of your ancestors.


Friends and Mentors

Genealogy is the most clubbable of hobbies. I’ve made firm friendships online with family historians I may never meet in person, “pen pals” for the 21st century. I’ve also been privileged to learn from some outstanding professional genealogists. Although I’m British, and focused mainly on UK research, most of these friends and mentors have been Americans and Canadians. To all of you – and you know who you are – this blog is dedicated.