She was the first child of Dr William Smithson CORTIS and Mary Jane née GREEN, baptised on the 5th of January 1846 in St Oswald’s Church, Filey. Her mother died when she was twelve and the household at census in 1861 shows signs of an extended family pulling together. Jane’s aunt Isabella Maria BOWES (her mother’s sister) was in residence with her second son Richard Taylor Bowes. The old salt, Richard Cortis, hale and hearty at 74, was visiting from Hull. Jane’s younger sister Alice Weddell Cortis was away on census night but her brothers were home – William Richard, 14, who became an MP in the Australian Parliament and would be tried for murder, and Herbert Liddell, 4, whose destiny was to cycle twenty miles in an hour before anyone else did. Three servants, all Lincolnshire born, completed the household in John Street.
It was in Lincolnshire that Jane found a husband. John Would PARKER was a farmer of 600 acres, employing 18 labourers and 6 boys in 1871. He was fifteen years older than Jane, in his mid forties when they married in St Mary’s Church, Newington (London) in 1876. They settled on the farm in Ludborough but were not blessed with children. They had dogs instead.
This photograph isn’t dated but was taken at Ludborough, I guess around 1890.
The enumerator in 1891 found the couple at “Lindens, Turnpike” near Louth. John was still farming, but possibly not 600 acres. He died towards the end of 1893, aged 63. John’s spinster sister, Sarah Elizabeth, had lived with the couple for many years but she died a few months later. With all her surviving birth family scattered to the ends of the earth, Jane set off for Australia. Her father died in Manly on 15 September 1906 and she breathed her last in that place, 19 May 1911.
It isn’t certain that this is Jane Maria but the photographer was Willey of Louth, a town only six or seven miles from Ludborough. The wee dog could be significant.
This is Jane and she seems to have an engagement ring and wedding band, so maybe the photo was taken in 1876, after her marriage and before she returned to Lincolnshire with her husband.
Jane seems to have filled out somewhat but John still looks youthful, though his mutton chops are greying. The photograph may have been taken while on their honeymoon (and Jane’s extra pounds are merely a fashion accessory).
The uncertainty about the identity of Jane in the second photograph seems justified if close attention is paid to the eyes, ears and nose of the lady with a whip. The features are noticeably different, though the overall shape of the face is similar.
What does it matter? I just hope that John and Jane’s seventeen years of marriage brought them much happiness. She was a widow for a year longer than that, and most of that time was spent in a foreign land. I wonder what her life was like in Australia.