Wednesday, 8 February 2017

What Did My Ancestors Look Like? - The Storeys

I've always wondered what my ancestors looked like. Even long before I started researching my family, I always liked the idea that perhaps I inherited a feature or had a likeness of another family member.

I've been lucky enough to see photographs of most of my immediate ancestors, although some branches remain a mystery, and no one in the family seem to have photographs of them at all. And of course, the majority of ancestors lived in a time before photography existed, or they weren't wealthy enough to afford photographs, or perhaps a camera just wasn't accessible. 

But there are other ways to discover what ancestors looked like and exactly what features they had. For example, certain merchant navy records took note of height, complexion, and also hair and eye colour. They often recorded birthdate and place too, as well as any distinguishing marks a person had. 

Of course, these records are only as reliable as the person making the record, so the following may actually be false. 

I've made a little pedigree chart on Microsoft Word to help display my findings. 

Above are four generations of my Storey family - from my great-grandfather, Robert M Storey, all the way through to my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Adam Storey, who was baptised in March 1794.

That Adam's birthdate was recorded on his merchant navy record as being the 4 March 1793, so that could possibly be a year out. 

The record notes that Adam had a fair complexion, with brown hair and blue eyes. He was just over 6 foot in height. 

His two sons were also listed in the merchant navy records, but they don't seem to have looked very much alike at all. My 3x great-grandfather, Adam born in 1822, had auburn hair and hazel eyes. His brother James, born in 1825, must have closely resembled his father, as he too had brown hair and blue eyes, but brothers shared their father's fair complexion. Adam and James were also around the same height; 5ft 11, and 5ft 8, respectively. 

The next generation is tricky. I have seen many, many photographs of my great-great-grandfather, Adam Storey, born in 1853. He lived such a long life and was so well-known he appeared in many, yet sadly none of the photographs that I've seen have been in colour. Adam was never in the army, nor have I seen any merchant navy records, so his exact details are unknown. However, I can guess. 

His eyes appear quite dark in all the photographs that I've seen, which might indicate that his mother, Ann Renner, had dark features. But perhaps he had hazel eyes like his father.

He is an old man in every photo I have, and his hair is fairly light, which may imply he had light-brown hair, or perhaps he was lighter still and had auburn hair like his father in his younger days. 

Adam Storey
1853 - 1951

I imagine his skin complexion was fair, as one might expect for a Northumbrian man who had lived his entire life on the north east coast. I also believe he was quite tall like his ancestry would suggest.

My great-great-grandfather's first cousin, James Storey the younger, fought in the First World War. However, only his height was recorded. He was 5ft 8 and a quarter, so only a little taller than his father. 

As there are no known recordings of Adam (1853) or James (1878)'s colouring, I have 'greyed' them out in the pedigree above.

I also have the details of my great-grandfather, Robert M Storey, his elder brother, Eddie, and his younger brother, Gladstone. 

In contrast to their ancestors, Robert and Eddie were both said to have dark complexions. They shared brown eyes and brown hair, although Eddie's were stated to have been darker than Robert's. They were around the same height too, Eddie being 5ft 7 and a half, and Robert being exactly 5ft 7. 

It must be noted that both Robert and Eddie's descriptions come from when they enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War. They were both Northumbrian born and bred, so I do wonder if they naturally had fairer complexions. The dark complexion may be explained by warmer Australian climate.

It might have been that Robert and Eddie's mother, Jane Mavin, had dark features, and a darker complexion to the Storey family, but I really don't know.

None of the family members I have mentioned were said to have any distinguishing marks, except uncle Eddie. He had a little red tattooed heart on his right forearm, with the word 'Mizpah' [sic] written inside. 

As for uncle Gladstone, he was a little shorter than his two brothers, but he did have the same brown hair. He measured 5ft 6 exactly. Gladstone also had blue eyes, like his great-grandfather. 

Whereas Robert and Eddie had dark complexions, Gladstone had a medium complexion. This may suggest that Jane Mavin was indeed a shade or two darker than her husband.

I can also add three further generations to this chart. 

My grandma had a fairly dark complexion, with dark hair and brown eyes. I just can't be certain whose traits she inherited as her mother, Robert M Storey's wife, also had dark features.

My father has brown hair and blue eyes, and a pale complexion. 

I myself have a fair complexion, rather pale actually, with fair hair and blue eyes. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Free to Marry

Thomas McKeith was the fourth son of Robert, a sawyer, and Mary McKeith (née Bertram). He was born on 13 December 1808 at Jarrow, Durham, and was baptised there just short of a year later. Thomas was an elder brother of my 4x great-grandfather, Barty Keith.

Thomas's baptism.
From the Durham Bishop's Transcripts.

Thomas married Mary Robson, a widow, at St Hilda's, South Shields on 9 July 1844. Their daughter, Elizabeth Ann McKeith, was born the following year. 

But Thomas was actually harbouring a secret, and it wasn't long before he was found out and exposed. His secret was outed in contemporary newspapers for all and sundry to read. Thomas McKeith was a criminal.

The following is from the Durham Chronicle, 2 March 1849:

THOMAS MC'KEATH (41) was charged with having, at the parish of Jarrow, unlawfully married Mary Robson, his lawful wife being then alive. - Mr DIGBY SEYMOUR appeared for the prosecution: the prisoner was undefended. The prisoner it appeared was first married at Trenan [sic], in Scotland, on the 12th December, 1828, to Margaret Neil. The first marriage ceremony of the prisoner was performed by the then officiating minister of Trenan, at the house of the first wife's mother. On 9th July, 1844, he was again married to one Mary Robson, at St. Hilda's Church, South Shields. On the policemen going to the house to apprehend him, he was under the bed. Prisoner acknowledged the charge against him, and said he was married 18 or 19 years ago; the name of his first wife was Margaret Neil. He had not seen her for seven years. He had got married again two years after he had seen her. Both the first and second marriage were proved; the first marriage by the prisoner's first wife's brother; the second by the sexton of St. Hilda's Church, South Shields. In extenuation, prisoner said he had written to his wife, but had received no answer. She had, on a previous occasion, told him that she liked another man's little finger better than his (the prisoner's) whole body. The man to whom she alluded, it appears she had been living with, and to whom she had had a child. Under these circumstances, he had married again. In fact she had told the prisoner herself, that she was lawfully married to the man whom she was living, and that he (the prisoner) was free. The person prisoner had married at South Shields, he said knew under what circumstances she had married him. He had told her that he was married; and that his former wife was then living. - Guilty. - Sentence deferred until the second wife should be sent for."

Similar articles also appeared in the Durham County Advertiser and Newcastle Courant on the same date. The Newcastle Guardian covered the story on the following day, and added some extra details.

"... When the policemen went, in January of the present year, to apprehend him on the charge of bigamy, he found him hid under the bed; he asked him why he had done that, in reply to which he said he was afraid of his two wives (laughter). In defence, the prisoner said his first wife had told him that she had married again to a man named Hornby, to whom she had a child. She added that she liked Hornby's little finger better than his whole body (laughter). She told him she had no claim upon him and he had none on her, and as he wanted a home he thought he could not do better than take to Mary Robson (laughter). - The jury found a verdict of guilty, and sentence was deferred, his lordship wishing to know whether the prisoner, previous to the second marriage, told Mary Robson about his having been previously married to a woman who was still alive. His lordship added that in all cases of bigamy the second wife ought to be produced as a witness. The solicitor for the prosecution said the woman was a cripple, and when the prisoner was apprehended she did not attend at the police-office to complain."

On the 9 March, the following appeared in the Durham Chronicle:

"In reference to the case of THOMAS MC'KEATH who was charged and found guilty of having, at the parish of Jarrow, unlawfully married Mary Robson, his lawful wife being then alive on whom sentence was deferred until the woman Robson should be sent for, for the purpose of seeing whether she was cognisant, at the time she married Mc'Keath, that he had another wife who was then living, Mr DIGBY SEYMOUR stated to his Lordship that the woman had come, and who said that she did not know, and that he had deceived her. - hard labour for one year."

I was surprised to find this story, so naturally I did a little more digging. I already had the date of Thomas's lawful marriage, so quickly found it in the Scottish registers on ScotlandsPeople. He and Margaret Neil were married at Tranent, a town in East Lothian, rather than Trenan, as named in the first article. Thomas was described as a coalier, or collier. 

Thomas and Margaret's marriage at Tranent, East Lothian, Scotland.

I also found that Thomas and Margaret had two daughters; Marion, born in 1830 at Tranent, and Margaret, born in 1833 at nearby Prestonpans.

There is no doubt that things in the relationship turned sour, and Thomas deserted his wife and daughters. He obviously returned to Jarrow, his birthplace and where his mother and siblings still lived. Perhaps he believed that he had put a great enough distance between himself and Margaret? Thomas obviously thought he could get away with bigamously marrying the "crippled" Mary Robson, but he got his comeuppance in the end.

I can find no record of Margaret's involvement with a man named Hornby, with whom she supposedly had a child, but I did find another. In late 1841, a boy named Daniel Arrington was born in Tranent. His supposed father was named Daniel too, and his mother was Margaret Neil.

I can only assume that his relationship did not work out either, and Margaret was deserted once again.

Margaret later died on 21 March 1873. Her son, Daniel Arrington, was the informant of her death. It's quite interesting to see just what and how much he knew about his mother's life prior to his birth.

Margaret Neil Keith's death certificate.

Daniel informed the registrar that his mother was the widow of Thomas Keith, a journeyman sawyer. Thomas was indeed a sawyer, and it is of course possible that he travelled while doing that job. However, his mother was not a widow, as Thomas was not yet dead. This perhaps implies that following the bigamy revelation back in 1849, communication between Thomas, his daughters, and his legal spouse completely broke down. 

Thomas doesn't seem like a very nice man, and his treatment of both Margaret and Mary just doesn't sit well with me. He deserted Margaret and his two young daughters, then took up with Mary Robson, a "crippled" widow with young children because he was in need of a roof over his head. I imagine he thought that was the best he could do at the time.

Despite this, it is obvious to me that Thomas McKeith was quite a character - take that how you will. He evidently had a knack for making people laugh, and was very humorous in his responses even in a court setting. This is clearly a family trait as his brother Barty was very much the same, although I haven't found any evidence of Barty being so cruel.

Thomas McKeith later died in 1889. Mary Robson had died three years earlier.