Only Connect #3: Thomas Thackrah Cortis

Thomas was about twenty months old when his mother died. His father chose not to marry again so Thomas was raised by older sisters.

As mentioned in an earlier post, of the six Cortis boys who reached adulthood, one emigrated (eventually) to Australia and the other five to America. Thomas seems to have had the greatest difficulty getting to grips with the New World.

He has four Personal IDs on the FamilySearch Shared Tree. Only one gives him parents.

Two show him married to Helen Isabel (or Isabella) WHITTEMORE. Here is one –

Though lacking detail, these two screenshots “tell the truth” – but only part of his story. Helen was his second wife. The fourth ID reveals his marriage to Sarah Jane HERRICK and the three sons they brought into the world. (Two didn’t stay long and Richard died aged 19.)

Poor Sarah. Her pedigree is astonishing – if the Shared Tree is to be believed. Forebear Henry Herrick Snr. arrived in Salem. Massachusetts aboard Lyon and married in the village three years after its foundation in 1626. His son, Henry Jnr., was a member of the jury at the Witch Trials. Her European ancestry is replete with aristocracy and a sprinkling of royalty. I feel sure Sarah would have been told stories at her mother’s knee of the Puritan Plantation – but that she was related to King Henry III of England? Maybe not.

Sarah gave birth to her boys in three different Iowa towns – De Witt, Fulton, and Davenport. Infant Herbert died in Davenport and Harold the following year in Fulton. Thomas was a physician, and clearly an unsettled one. However, the strength of his bond with sister Jane is indicated by these places being between ten and forty miles from the DANNATT family at Low Moor.

Over on Ancestry Sarah has been given an extra child.

Mabel was, of course, Helen’s child and if you look again at the second of the screenshots above you will see Mabel’s son Richard Cortis GREEN.

Richard, nicknamed “Cort”, exchanged letters with the Australian branch of the family and Peter has given me permission to share some of what he wrote about his grandparents. Poor Thomas and poor Helen. The following is part of a 1968 letter transcribed by Peter. Some of it may be fanciful family lore (not true) but this section is so vivid I offer it unedited. (Cort’s handwriting is difficult to read.)

“Cortis Fam. History – very little do I know really —SAM, RICHARD (White Star Line Boston, Hamburg American, NYC). JESSIE (married [Alvey] of US WORLD (Newspaper NYC & Almanac). Carrie Cortis (Sam’s daughter) Daunett –all familiar names.

MUCH EMOTION AND PROBLEMS FOR my mother as [the] penniless daughter of [the] youngest boy (THOMAS THACKERAY CORTIS), by 2nd wife , A WHITTEMORE (family split by US Civil War & impoverished).

Thomas Thackeray had wife & son RICHARD when came to U.S after service as an army surgeon in Sepoy Mutiny & Crimean War. [indeciph]:-siege of Balaclava -who knows – maybe he sparked [could be “spanked”] Florence Nightingale!! (One Brother skipper of R.N vessel in that show).

Next we see him a widower with a teenage son in N.Y.C courtesy of older brothers who got him a job as the port health officer –on strength of fantastic language skills –7 proficient [14 speaking].

We see him making classic mistake of trying to find a foster-mother for son & himself a wife. He married Helen Whittemore. She has social aspirations. Debts mount up. His brothers pay. He gets out of town. Goes to DeWit CLINTON IOWA. Has daughter (my mother) born approx. 1876 (mother always said she was born 1880 & records burned in DeWit Club). Moved Municipalities [indecipherable] again 1882/83. Wife took herself to her room & [never] was seen again –pining for lost gay life in NYC. RICHIE, the son dies of measles and pneumonia about 1885 age about 18. T.T Cortis keeps stiff upper lip. Puts rose in button hole every morning on way to office -wends way on rather faithful mare [indecipherable]. He has 2 strokes and dies in 1896. Mother and her mother Helen Whittemore Cortis =>Chicago. My mother aged about 18? Works for Marshall Field Store. No money. Brothers pay to put H. Whittemore in home (we will never know what her real trouble was), mother went to NYC. $500 were left from Dr T.T’s estate –that kept by SAM –much anguish as mother thought was for her education – wanted to be a Dr. (Father fixation etc etc etc).

You see why I’m ready to dump the whole U.S part of the clan. EXCEPT FOR ONE THING –old T.T tried & did KEEP THE FAITH. His illustrious eldest bro. was obstetrician to the old Queen VICTORIA herself & trained T.T. He T.T did most of his doctoring before [indecipherable] & GOD [indecipherable] Penicillin—which event –so help me have wielded as a giver of life & [kept?] death away from my crew.”

“Eldest bro” was William Smithson, who left Filey after 1861 and was enumerated in Kennington, less than three miles from Buckingham Palace in 1871. If the then fifty year-old doctor followed his journey-to-royal work today he would pass the Florence Nightingale Museum, which has re-0pened in, spookily, St Thomas’ Hospital. I doubt anyone would ever have spanked Florence, or Mary Seacole, but in a long report on 1856 New Year celebrations in Crimea that mentions both Angels of Mercy, there is this –

Cort’s memory of young Richard doesn’t fit the Shared Tree information but it is interesting that Thomas returned to Iowa after a spell in New York City. Jane’s place must have been a refuge for him. Richard died in St Peter, Minnesota; his father not far away in St Paul.

Thomas is also represented on WikiTree ­with a variant middle name. I signed up to be a “WikiTreer” yesterday so that I could connect him to his folks in Hull – and marry him to Sarah Jane.

Path 106 · Old Tip

Nature Reserve and Parish Wood, evening

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