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

The Worthy Doctor of Filey

William Smithson CORTIS, firstborn son of Richard (Thursday’s post) and Jane SMITHSON, married Mary Jane GREEN in Wintringham in June 1843 when he was 23 years-old. Their first child, Jane Maria, was born in Filey about eighteen months later. I don’t know what accidents or designs brought him to this small and undistinguished town but he didn’t just look after the health of its people – he saw a bigger picture. He took a deep interest in the history of the area and, perhaps not surprisingly for the son of a master mariner, did all he could to better the lot of local fishermen and all who sailed the dangerous waters off the Yorkshire coast.

In Scarborough Town Hall in November 1857 he read a paper about the recent discovery of Roman artifacts on “Car-Naese” and in the same year began to campaign for the building of a Harbour of Refuge in Filey Bay. This appeared in the Scarborough Mercury on 22 October 1859: –

The Cortis Testimonial.

FILEY.

It will be in the recollection of most of our readers, that during the inquiry before the Royal Commission appointed to obtain evidence as to the best site for a National Harbour of Refuge, on the North East Coast of England, Dr. W. S. Cortis, of Filey, displayed considerable talent and persevering energy during a period of eighteen months, in searching out and obtaining information to lay before the Commissioners relative to the advantages possessed by Filey Bay for such a Harbour. Dr. Cortis had also during the sitting of the Parliamentary Committee on Harbours of Refuge in 1857-8, rendered much service by developing the merits of Filey Bay, and, in consequence, rendered himself deserving the esteem of a large circle of friends and those who are intimately concerned in the Shipping interest. To shew their gratitude for this persevering labour, on the part of a private individual, a public meeting was called at Foord’s Hotel, Filey, some time back, when a number of gentlemen were appointed to receive subscriptions for the purpose of presenting Dr. Cortis with a suitable Testimonial. The committee for carrying out this object, have so far succeeded as to be enabled to purchase a very handsome and richly chased silver breakfast service, consisting of kettle and stand, with lamp, a coffee-pot, tea-pot, sugar-basin, and cream ewer, all en suite, and which are to be presented by the inhabitants of Filey to the worthy Doctor, on Friday next, the 28th instant. The testimonial bears the following somewhat lengthy but appropriate inscription:-“Presented with-guineas, to W. S. Cortis, Esq., M.D., by the inhabitants of Filey and the neighbourhood, as a testimonial of their appreciation of the services which he rendered to the maritime interests of the coasts, and to the cause of humanity, in advancing the claims of Filey Bay as the site of a National Harbour of Refuge, by the able manner in which he searched out evidence and laid it before the parliamentary committee, by the clear and lucid way in which he developed its advantages before her Majesty’s commissioners, and by the talent, energy, and perseverance with which he conducted the whole case.

October, 1859.”

The blank left in the inscription will, we believe, be filled up with the amount of money intended to be given with the Testimonial-the sum, we understand, will be between 159 and 200 guineas. A large number of merchants, and shipowners, in Hull, have also testified their appreciation of Dr. Cortis’s labours in bringing to a successful issue a question of such vast importance; they have therefore purchased a large massive salver, twenty inches in diameter, to be presented at the same time, on which is a faithful and well executed engraving of the beautiful Bay of Filey, shewing the long projection of rocks, called the “Brig,” as well as the handsome buildings which characterise the improvements on the South Cliffs. Under the view is the following inscription:-“Presented to William S. Cortis, Esq., M.D., Filey, by his friends in Hull, as a token of their recognition of the services rendered by him to the commerce of the east coast of England, by his indefatigable advocacy of the formation of a National Harbour of Refuge in Filey Bay. October, 1859.”

The whole of these exquisite pieces of workmanship have been entrusted to the skill of Messrs. Jacobs and Lucas, silversmiths, of Hull, and are now being exhibited at Mr. Suggitt’s, grocer, Filey, previous to the presentation. We understand that a public dinner will be given after the presentation, at five o’clock.

The effort to make the harbour of refuge a reality continued for many years and ultimately failed, but reprint copies of William’s book, Losses of Ships and Lives on the North-East Coast of England, and How to Prevent Them can still be purchased online.

William Smithson Cortis, no date, Sawyer, Bird & Foxlee, 87 Regent Street,
courtesy H F Morrice Collection

William is remembered on the stone marking the grave of his wife and their infant son Henry Liddell in St Oswald’s churchyard.

Also, WILLIAM S. CORTIS M.D., husband of the above, died at Manly N.S.W., 15 Sep. 1906, aged 86 years.

Mary Jane died in the summer of 1858 aged 36. Four years later William married Susanna HEWSON in Louth, Lincolnshire. In 1878 their names appear on the Victoria Inward Passenger List of the vessel Hankow, their final destination Sydney.

The Will of Dr Cortis can be found online and the codicil caught my eye.

It is dated 1901 and I need to go back to my notes to see if there are reasons for William Richard losing the silver. (He outlived his father by just over two years.)

Measure of Man 42 ·Evron Centre

I wonder what William Smithson would have made of SARS-CoV-2. I think he would have lined up with the good doctors.

Happy Doctors

A couple of weeks from now, the UK will resemble today’s Italy. Our National Health Service will be close to collapse, its staff exhausted.

O tempora, o mores. In late March a hundred and twenty-five years ago, the Scarborough Mercury published this snippet in Filey: Events of the Week –

Nearly everyone has got the influenza or if they haven’t exactly got it, they have a notion that they are just going to have it. Whoever you speak to seems quite gloomy and the doctors as they rush up one street and down another are the only persons who seem really happy. They must have reaped a golden harvest for more people have been ill in Filey since Christmas than probably ever before known in so short a time. It is quite a fashionable watering place, but really it need not have been so fashionable in the matter of the influenza. Proportionately many more people have been attacked in Filey than in Scarborough, and it has also had a most disastrous effect on the old people.

One of the Filey doctors coining it was James HAWORTH, aged 70 but still in practice. Known locally as “The Old Doctor” to distinguish him from his physician and surgeon son John Thomas (familiarly “Tom”). Both men served Filey well for many years and are buried in St Oswald’s churchyard, James with Jane and Tom with Beatrice Mary. Tom has a curious inscription on the base of his cross.

E15_HAWORTHtom_20120715_fst

I will not – and went

Neither couple is well represented on the FamilySearch Tree yet. When I have gathered the Haworths, their wives and children, I’ll put the headstone photos and inscriptions on the Shared Tree.

I was surprised a couple of days ago to discover that Tom’s younger sister Mabel married  Henry Robert BARWICK, the eighth child (and fourth son) of William Francis and Ann néeFOSTER (yesterday’s post).

Henry and Mabel married at St Oswald’s but lived in Norwood Street, Scarborough. In 1891 they shared the capacious Norwood Lodge with two of Henry’s sisters, a brother, two nieces and a nephew. By 1901 the siblings and their offspring had departed. Henry and Mabel had two children of their own, and Jane Haworth was enumerated with them, together with her servant (“Mother’s Help”). The Old Doctor died in 1905 and widow Jane, 83 in 1911, was again caught by the enumerator at Norwood Lodge, this time with 65-year-old “Nurse Attendant”, widow Mary Myers.

Henry’s youngest sister Beatrice Crompton Haworth also married at St Oswald’s – in 1905, just a few months before the Old Doc died. Her husband was “St John Lower PALIOLOGUS”, who surely deserves a place on the Shared Tree. His middle name is “Lower” in the civil marriage registration but his elder brother Samuel is “Lowen” on FamilySearch.

A Marriage Made in Cyberspace

William Smithson CORTIS practiced medicine in Filey for over ten years. In that time his wife, Mary Jane née GREEN, gave birth to five children.  Two of three sons survived into adulthood and both qualified as doctors. The elder, William Richard,  blazed an adventurous trail to Australia and father, stepmother, brother, and two sisters duly followed him there. You may find a fourth son recorded in a British Census but “Albert” is a mistranscription of Herbert who, when not treating people for ailments, was thrilling those who turned up at cycle racing tracks in the early 1880s. Herbert Liddell CORTIS became widely recognized as the greatest cyclist of his generation and was still being remembered as such forty years after his death.

William Richard had a longer life, dying at 61 in Perth, Western Australia, at the beginning of 1909. He packed a great deal into his span – a shipwreck, fighting in a war, owning racehorses, becoming an MP, giving evidence in murder trials and being charged with an unlawful killing himself. He married three times and none of his brides were Anne Barnby HILL.

CORTIS_WmRichd_Screenshot

Link to pedigree

Blame “the system”!   Humans make mistakes like this too, of course. When I happened upon this marriage a couple of days ago I was quite prepared to accept it. The Australia connection fooled me initially but I went back to old notes and recently donated information and began to find more credible pieces of the Cortis Family jigsaw.

Titanic was not the first White Star Line vessel to hit an iceberg. In 1864 one of the company’s first steam-powered sailing ships, Royal Standard, got into a scrape in the South Atlantic. The people onboard lived to tell the tale, the ship making her way to Rio de Janeiro for repairs and then returning to Liverpool, her home port. The ship’s luck ran out in October 1869 when she was wrecked on the coast of Brazil. William Richard Cortis, on his way to Australia, was among the survivors.

William returned home rather than continue his journey to the antipodes and within a year had married Mary Julia MOORE in Camberwell. The newlyweds almost immediately sailed for the Australian Colonies but Mary Julia soon died in Tambaroora of tuberculosis, aged 23.

On 15th January 1873, William married Florence FYANS, daughter of the late Captain FYANS (4th King’s Own Regiment and formerly Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Western District, Victoria), at Christ Church, St Kilda, Melbourne. By the time William is reckoned to have married Anne Barnby Hill, Florence had borne one son and was pregnant with another. They would go on to have nine children together – and then divorce about 1905.

I haven’t found any evidence that William took up with a younger woman while still married to Florence but, as he approached sixty, Edith (family name not yet found) became the doctor’s third wife. On the 5th October 1908, The West Australian was reporting her funeral “in the Anglican portion of the Karrakatta Cemetery”. The screen image of the death notice is too heavily printed to be sure but, aged 23 or 28, Edith died well before her time.

1908_CORTISedith_DEATH

(Family Notice via Trove.)

Within three months, William Richard Cortis was also dead. On the 6th January 1909, The Geraldton Express reflected on “A Varied Career”.

Dr. William Richard Cortis died suddenly yesterday at the W. A. Club. He was over 60 years of age, and during his career had been a prominent surgeon, legislator, soldier, and magistrate. During the past six or eight months he acted as Resident Medical Officer at Kookynie. He came to the city about a month ago, having obtained leave. For two or three years he held the position of Resident Magistrate and Medical Officer at Derby. The post-mortem examination revealed the fact that the cause of death was angina pecoris (sic), and although the deceased had taken a quantity of morphia to alleviate the pain, this had nothing whatever to do with his end. Deceased was a man of fine physique, but during the last year he was overtaken by a trouble which no doubt undermined his health, and this was accelerated by the recent death of his wife, which preyed on his mind. Last year, while Resident Magistrate and Medical Officer at Derby, he was called upon to stand his trial on three separate occasions for the alleged unlawful killing of a man named Gerald Ascione.

William Richard’s short-term in Government is officially recognized here.

My thanks to Elizabeth Kennard (USA) and Peter Donkin (Australia) for kindly offering information on the Cortis Family that might otherwise have remained hidden from me. I have several more leads to follow and hope soon to make the necessary corrections to the pedigree on FamilySearch. I won’t be at all surprised to discover that the William who married Anne Barnby HILL and William Richard are cousins with a recent common ancestor just three generations back in north Lincolnshire. CORTIS isn’t a common name.