Strangeways

If Mr Swain, my teacher in the top class at Stoneferry J & I, had asked me what the name “Strangeways” conjured up I would have shuddered and mumbled, “the jail, sir”. The lock-up’s reputation was contagious enough to infect little children. (Google it.)

Now, in my dotage, I find I have Strangeways (or variants thereof) in my family tree – and genealogical criminal acts have been perpetrated upon some of them. That’s perhaps a bit strong. I’ll reduce the charge to “microaggressions”.

I have no interest in sending anyone down for the offences. Some mistakes are easily made on the FamilySearch Tree. I expect to be found guilty any day now.

I call William STRANGEWAY.

His birth was registered in the December Quarter of 1842 in York, the son of James, a brickmaker, and Sarah née MATTHEWS. He didn’t stay long enough to celebrate his first birthday but here he is on the Shared Tree.

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William is without sources here but checking the GRO for his asserted death in Leeds in 1894 gives this –

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A calculated arrival three years out of whack rings a warning bell.

Let’s first look for a York birth registration in 1842.

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Year and mother fit the Shared Tree screenshot.

There is nothing for us in York three years later but in the first quarter of 1846 –

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In 1851 the census puts William the Younger with parents Robert, a brick and tile maker, and Frances née GIBSON at 5 Aldwark, which is a ten-minute walk from James and Sarah’s home in Redeness Street. William the Elder is beyond the ken of the enumerator of course but his two sisters, Elizabeth and Ann, are recorded with brother Thomas and grandmother Ann née MEPHAM.

The Aldwark house also shelters an Elizabeth. If the births of the two girls were registered on time, less than six months separate their appearance on the planet. There’s a greater chance of some latter-day family historian mixing these two up!

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Robert Strangways died aged 44 in 1853. In 1861, William is 15, working as a cloth dresser and living with his mother in Ratcliffe Yard, Leeds. He marries Ellen ARCHER in that city about eight years later.

Sarah Strangway, six years a widow, marries George GREEN in York in late 1862. Her second marriage does not last. In 1871, a widow again, she is living in Marygate with offspring Charlotte and James Strangway. James chooses not to marry and is with his mother in 1891, working as a labourer. Sarah, 73, is a nurse. Ten years later she is in the York workhouse. James is still alive, whereabouts unknown to me in 1901. His mother dies aged 85 in 1903 and James follows her into eternity less than a year later, aged 50.

I wonder if James’ sister Elizabeth attended either of the funerals. She died in Hull in 1911 after burying four of the nine children she had with Alfred WELBURN, one of them being “my Strangway”, first wife of William Henry Phillip SMAWFIELD who then married my grandaunt Elizabeth Ann LOCKETT.

This is a confusing number of Elizabeths to deal with and I am in some doubt now. Have I chosen the right Elizabeth from the two girls born in York in the early 1840s? Although confident I have sorted out the Williams, I don’t have cast iron sources for their sisters. A church marriage source naming a father would give me comfort but I haven’t found one yet. I’ll go over my evidence and report another day.

Mark of Man 45 · Bell Buoy

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This gives a better sense of the size of Bell Buoy than Thursday’s sunrise photo.

Foraging Unmasked

I did my weekly shop at the supermarket this morning. I wore nitrile gloves and a scarf in case I needed to protect people from my droplets. I saw only one other person wearing a scarf. So far, in the town, I have seen just one person in a mask.

In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it is mandatory to wear a mask out of doors. The governments didn’t supply masks so nationwide cottage industries sprang up to meet demand. Chris Martenson put this onscreen in his post yesterday.

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This afternoon I heard a UK doctor on national radio explain how ineffective masks are in protecting against catching Covid-19 disease. He was particularly scathing about homemade masks. He concluded by appealing to the great unwashed not to wear masks at all. “Leave them for our health workers on the frontline.” But…but… I thought you said…

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Go figure.

The Three Wives of John Pearson

John was the son of Charles PEARSON and Martha SIMPSON, and stepbrother to Wrightson who drowned from the yawl Integrity (Friday’s post). Today, on the FamilySearch Shared Tree, he is a single man.

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His brides-to-be can be found, though not easily.

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Filey Genealogy & Connections offers two wives, Elizabeth (with a ‘zed’) Baxter and Jane, but Kath notes the existence of Wife No. 2; “not sure which Elizabeth he was married to – choice of a few”.

Elizabeth Baxter was 30 years old when she married and 39 when she died in 1874. There are no indications in the records that she gave birth to any children. In 1871, the enumerator gave her age as 36, five years older than John, and her birthplace Filey.

Ten years later, John’s wife is Elizabeth, given age 43, but her birthplace is omitted. In 1891, the couple is living with John’s father and the transcriber of the enumerator’s book has all three born in Norfolk. This is a wilful misinterpretation of a blizzard of dittos, in the middle of which Charles’ birthplace stands out – Goathland, which we know isn’t in Norfolk but rather the Yorkshire birthplace of John’s mother, Martha. The 1901 census asserts that Elizabeth was born in Filey and again her given age is the same as John’s. This age consistency across three censuses bolsters confidence when we search for the Elizabeth JENKINSON John married in 1875. In FG&C there are three possibilities, born in 1839, 1841 and 1843. The younger two have married other men. The Elizabeth born in the same year as John is a Filonian and waiting for her Mister Pearson, so she must be our gal.

I continue to seek a “clincher” but have enough certainty to proceed with marrying John to all three women on FST over the next few days.

John was a Filey character. The Scarborough Mercury tells us so.

Friday 10 January 1908

Mrs. Pearson, wife of the sexton, of the Parish Church, died on Wednesday evening at about seven  o’clock, at her home in Church  Hill. She had been ill for some time.

Friday 31 December 1909

Another misfortune was the death which took place yesterday of Mr. John Pearson, the old sexton. So well known was he that his death, which came suddenly at the end, was regarded as a town’s matter-for the sexton was almost part of Filey. Visitors to the Parish Church will have seen him frequently. He was an aged man, well on to 80 years, and was quite a character in his way. He had been poorly for some little time past, and had been medically attended. It is thought that he had had a fit during the night, and died. Just over a year ago he was married for the third time. It was thought, at first, that there would be an inquest, but as he had been medically attended, it was deemed that an inquiry was not necessary. He had been sexton for very many years.

Poor John. Too unwell, perhaps, to enjoy the short time he had with Jane, a woman 21 years his junior.

It seems strange that a sexton for so many years at St Oswald’s does not have a marked grave in the churchyard.

The 1911 census caught Jane visiting retired coal dealer William WATKINSON at 3 Belle Vue Street, Filey, occupation dressmaker. The only death registration I have found that fits her closely indicates her passing in Pontefract, in 1934. (I did look for her marrying again, without success.)

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3 Belle Vue Street this afternoon

I suppose John’s “failure” to honour the genetic imperative accounts for his remaining a bachelor on FST for so long. However, one of his houses had rung with young voices. In 1901, he and Elizabeth the Second had two servants aged 11 and 12 – Rose and Melita OLDBRIDGE, born in Lincolnshire. I have looked, but have found nothing more about these girls.

 

Another Mystery Pearson

John was the son of Charles PEARSON and first wife Martha SIMPSON. The parents and several of his siblings are remembered in the churchyard but John isn’t to be found there. This is surprising as he had been the sexton at St Oswald’s.

The Scarborough Mercury on the last day of 1909 informed readers of his passing.

Another misfortune was the death which took place yesterday of Mr. John Pearson, the old sexton. So well known was he that his death, which came suddenly at the end, was regarded as a town’s matter-for the sexton was almost part of Filey. Visitors to the Parish Church will have seen him frequently. He was an aged man, well on to 80 years, and was quite a character in his way. He had been poorly for some little time past, and had been medically attended. It is thought that he had had a fit during the night, and died. Just over a year ago he was married for the third time. It was thought, at first, that there would be an inquest, but as he had been medically attended, it was deemed that an inquiry was not necessary. He had been sexton for very many years.

John’s age at death is given as 71 in the GRO Index. In Filey Genealogy & Connections he has only two wives listed but Kath acknowledges Elizabeth the Second in a note, but is not sure of who she is, adding “[there’s a] choice of a few in 1908”.

I have also been unable to determine who won the heart of John after Elizabeth the First died in 1874. Twist my arm and I’d say it was Elizabeth JENKINSON, daughter of George and Elizabeth née SIMPSON (and not related to him by blood through his mother). I’m not sure enough to add this marriage to FamilySearch Tree. John has, as yet, a tenuous foothold on FST. His half brothers and sisters have a better representation.

On Friday 10 January The Scarborough Mercury had this:-

Mrs. Pearson, wife of the sexton, of the Parish Church, died on Wednesday evening at about seven  o’clock, at her home in Church  Hill. She had been ill for some time.

John married Jane GREEN on 21 November that year and died thirteen months later.

Today’s Image

Since receiving its award last year, Nuns Walk has been made more suitable for the tenderfoot. The path borders have been skelped and, it seems, dosed with weedkiller. I preferred it in a wilder, more natural state.

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One Spring in Wintringham

The letter from Maria Green to the Vicar of Holy Trinity (Sunday’s post) was an unexpected “find” and it prompted me to look further into her family.

In 1841 Maria, husband William and three children were living in Marine Row, Hull. I haven’t been able to locate the place with certainty but it must surely have been close to the River Humber, the Old Town Docks – and to Minerva Terrace where the CORTIS family lived.  Opportunity, then, for the elder Green girl to hook up with the oldest Cortis boy.

But what’s this? In 1844 Mary Jane and William Smithson married in Wintringham, 35 miles from the bustling port town. Why?

While semi-retired master mariner Richard Cortis was running the Minerva Tavern, William Green was a silk mercer (census), and before that, at the christenings of his three children, a haberdasher. Sometime in the 1840s he decided on a career change and took over the 520-acre Rookdale Farm – in Wintringham. In 1847 his other daughter, Isabella Maria, married Richard BOWES in the village church. I’m still not sure when and where William and Maria’s son, Thomas Rae Green, married but at the 1851 census the young man is on the farm with his wife Mary, the sister of Richard Bowes.

Richard and Mary’s father, William Bowes, was a miller and he also made a significant move during his lifetime, from one of the Yorkshire Bromptons to Monkwearmouth Shore in County Durham. Some sources link the family to Brompton by Northallerton and others to Brompton by Sawdon. I suspect the latter is more likely because of its proximity to Wintringham. (It seems a stretch for them to have lived in both.)

So far, so romantic and rurally idyllic.

At the 1861 census, Thomas is farming Rookdale. His widowed mother, Maria, is in residence and so are his five daughters and a son, William. (Their mother had died the previous year, aged 31.)

1862 was Thomas Green’s annus horribilis. On the 15th April, he buried his second child, Mary Margaret, 9. Four days later his mother was laid to rest, aged 68.  Emily, 5, joined her grandmother in the cold earth two days later, and her younger sister, four-year-old Alice, died a month later.

1862_GREEN_Wintringham_Burials.

Source accessed at Find my Past.

What illness could have ravaged the family so? And it was even more awful because  Harriet Isabella, Maria’s granddaughter, and the fourth child of Isabella Maria Bowes,  was buried with her cousin Mary on the 15th of April.(Isabella Maria’s husband, Richard, had died in 1854, aged 31. Yes, the same age as his sister Mary.)

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The Greens/Bowes did not flee from their sadness. The next census finds some of the survivors in Wintringham still. Thomas, his 19-year-old daughter Ann Maria and son William, now ten; his sister Isabella Maria with her daughter, also Ann Maria (and also 19).

I have looked for them in 1881 without success. Perhaps they emigrated to join their kinfolk in Australia or the United States.

You can find the pedigrees of Thomas Rae and Isabella Maria on the FamilySearch tree.

Minna, Lost

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On this day 1827, on the island of Nordeney, Master Mariner Richard CORTIS penned a letter to his sister Jane. He had just endured a terrifying experience and wanted to share his story. Jane, by accident or design, was instrumental in ensuring it went viral, in an early 19th century sort of way – the letter was reproduced in local newspapers throughout the land.

Nordenay, East Friesland, Nov. 4. – My dear Jane, – It is a most painful duty to inform you of the loss of the Minna on this island, and at the same time I have infinite pleasure to say we have all been miraculously preserved from a watery grave, and are now comfortably lodged, and most kindly treated, in a manner I shall hereafter mention. I shall now give you the particulars of our misfortune, at the same time reminding you how much you are indebted to the ALMIGHTY; be not then cast down, but rather rejoice, and be thankful that we are all safe, and in good health. After remaining in the Humber on Sunday [28th October], with a heavy gale from the N.E., on Monday we proceeded with a N.N.W. wind. When out I did not like the appearance and endeavoured to put back, but could not get in for the tide; we then went forward, and had fine weather until Wednesday the 31st, when the gale commenced with fury. We were at that time in a good offing from the land, and had the wind remained we should have had a long drift; the gale, or rather hurricane, increased with a tremendous high sea; we lay to all night, not a sail would stand but our try sail, and two o’clock in the morning of Nov. 1, our decks, with the bulwark, were clean swept away; the boats, however, were safe. I soon found we were coming near the shore, and prayed for day-light, yet dreaded the consequence; at day-light we found the land close on our lee, the wind and sea dead on, not the slightest hope could be indulged, the sight was truly awful, and a few minutes would determine our fate. A brig which left the Humber with us was close-to, with her anchors gone; we let go ours, but to no effect, for they both broke. We then ran right on the shore (every man clinging to something)’ fortunately it was high water, and a very high tide. We struck about seven a.m. the sea for a few minutes over us, but we held fast. I found the waves had lifted the vessel so high upon the sand, that if she did not upset or break to pieces we might be saved. We prepared our boat, and after cutting the lashings, a sea launched her with little assistance; we then all got in and committed ourselves to Him who suffereth not a sparrow to fall to the ground without his permission; in a moment we were in smooth water, ourselves as wet as if taken out of the sea, our boat half full – that we soon bailed out with our hats. We then had about five miles to go to the nearest house on the main land, as we did not see one on the island; this was unfortunate, as people are placed there on purpose to protect wrecks and give every assistance. We got on shore about half-past nine, and went to a very large farm-house, but to our sorrow it was kept by a hind and a housekeeper – shall I call her a woman, or rather a monster in human shape! Though we were wet to the skin and perishing with cold, they stood like brutes gazing on us, never offering us any dry clothes, and it was with difficulty we could get a fire; over a very slow one we had to sit all naked to dry first our shirts and then the remainder; as for my flannels they dried on my back; all the time experiencing black looks and growls from the housekeeper; then came dinner, bad enough, which I will not now describe. My people had to sleep in the barn; myself and passenger were indulged with a bed, and the next morning we rose with only some slight colds. During the day, to our great satisfaction, we were visited by Lloyd’s agent, who informed us that if we had gone on the island our reception would have been the reverse; to our comfort we arrived there the next day, and found the crew of the brig Sylph, of Leith, in ballast from Hull to Hambro’, safe. There we found another wreck, a galliot called the Vrow Maria, Capt. Jan Caspers Uil, with timber from Norway to Groningen; the captain and crew, his three sons (the youngest not more than eight years of age), presented a scene too shocking to describe: they were all killed in the cabin by the vessel turning bottom up. This morning the whole of the inhabitants, with ourselves, have attended the funeral, and a more solemn one I never witnessed; the minister prayed beautifully, and, assisted by the schoolmaster and a great number of little boys, a hymn was sung over the grave with great order. My mind was awfully roused, when I reflected it might have been our own lot; may the impression long remain, and have a happy effect!

I must now give an account of the Minna; she is so high on the strand, that the tide at high water scarcely reaches her; today the whole of her cargo will be safe on shore, the better half in tolerable condition; we shall then save all her stores for the benefit of the underwriters. Two more vessels are stranded to the east of us, and one to the west, making six vessels within about 20 miles; and I greatly fear all from the Texel to the Island of Heligoland must be lost, as we were ourselves in the latitude of the island when the gale came on; and, after we were on shore, it continued with equal fury the following night; indeed I never knew it to blow harder. We have saved since the gale all our clothes, and such is the honesty of the people and attention to wrecks, that not the smallest articles were touched. Would to God it was so everywhere! In gratitude to the people on this island, too much praise cannot be given. – Thirty-two sovereigns and some small money were found in the Dutch vessel, and in my drawer there were nearly two pounds in silver, and all faithfully delivered to the Governor! This circumstance, as well as their kind attention at the funeral, reflects the greatest credit upon them, and deserves the widest circulation.

Under this visitation we must look up to the Almighty with gratitude, and trust that something will turn out on land. Oh! To describe my feelings at the time of trial, I dare not attempt. My wife and children were, if possible, dearer than life itself; give me with them a cottage rather than the sea. Give my kind regards to all friends; to you my dear Jane, and the children, my feelings will not permit me to say more than every affection, love &c – From your

RICHARD CORTIS.

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The Lloyds underwriters must have obliged. Richard forsook the cottage in the country and invested in the SS London. Less than six months after Minna was lost Richard was advertising a passenger and freight service between Hull and Hamburg. It would take him almost a year to set up the venture.

Five guineas for the best cabin equates to about £400 today – more than enough to ferry a car and four occupants from Hull to Rotterdam.

 

 

In June 1834 the Hull papers reported the death of Jane Cortis née SMITHSON.

On Saturday last [7th June], highly respected, aged 43, Jane, wife of Mr. Richard Cortis of the Minerva Hotel, leaving a husband and ten children, two of whom are only six weeks old, to mourn her loss.

In 1861 the Census caught Richard in Filey, in the household of one of his sons, William Smithson CORTIS, the town’s doctor. The property was the first to be built in John Street and today the ground floor is for the most part occupied by the St Catherine’s Hospice shop. Would William approve?

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Richard’s family is well represented on the FamilySearch Tree, though I see there is an impostor wife who has yet to be dealt with! (Anne Barnby HILL, K2J9-17B.)

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.

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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.

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(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.