Geoffs Genealogy Update 04 October 2010

Monday October 4th, 2010 | Geoff

The most important piece of news this month is that we have fixed a date for the first ever reunion of descendants of John Bankes, Citizen & Haberdasher of London (abt 1652-1719).

We are at the earliest planning stages at the moment, but we shall be setting up an extra page on the Geoffs Genealogy website in the next couple of weeks, and this will provide full details of the event, which will take place at Coulsdon, Surrey on Saturday 18th June 2011.

Coulsdon is south of London and just north of the M25, and thus very accessible to travellers (including me). We will provide full instructions on how to get there well before the event.

I should say at this stage that we are very grateful to cousin Dot, who is not only playing a big part in the organisation of the reunion, but also has made available the building in which we will all meet. A very warm “Thankyou” to you, Dot.

We will need everybody who is coming to book in advance, so that we know how many people we are catering for. Unfortunately, we cannot run the event on a “free of charge” basis, but we shall keep the charge to an absolute minimum needed to cover costs. In truth it’s your attendance we want, not your money!

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. It should be a really great day. Hopefully a chance to meet old friends, make some new friends, and to share our common family history with fellow Bankes descendants. The only qualification you need to attend is a place in a line of descent from one of Bankes’s half siblings!

Incidentally, if you have any ideas of particular features or activities for the reunion please do let me know. It is perfectly possible that you may come up with something that we have not considered!

Following on from my previous blog entry, I have been busily adding to our research into the life of Robert Hanham Collyer (1815 – Abt 1891) and those who played a part in his life. Due to time constraints I need to bring this research to a halt – for the time being, that is.

In doing this research I have found some really interesting material about Robert and the lady who we take to have been his first wife – Susannah Hawley (MacDonald) Collyer, nee Clarke.

In a court hearing in 1873, at which what we believe to have been his second marriage was annulled, Robert stated that Susannah had left him in 1846, within a year of his marriage, and he had not heard from her since. He further said that in 1859 he had been told that she had died, and he believed this to be true because the information came from a person who he regarded as reliable. Strange that he couldn’t recall this person’s name, but we’ll leave that to one side.

As I was annotating these court proceedings for my records I thought that this evidence by RHC seemed barely believable, and set out to see whether in fact it stood up to examination.

I looked for Susannah on the censuses, and found her on the 1861 enumeration for Bath. She was living as an East India Company annuitant with a female servant, apparently in rented rooms. I also found a record of her death in 1869, at Hendon, then in Middlesex and now part of North London. The Probate Registry Calendars are now available on, so I was able to search for an entry for Susannah. Sure enough, I found it. In all these records Susannah gave her surname as “MacDonald” – the name of her first husband, who had died before her marriage to Collyer. It seems that she did not want to be associated with RHC, so when he said they had parted and never seen one another again that was probably true.

I’m still very sceptical, however, about RHC’s statement that he was told of his wife’s death in 1859. As one finds out more about RHC, one learns not to take what he said at face value.

The probate record gave the precise date of Susannah’s death – 20 August 1869, and told me that the probate was granted to a certain James Palmer Woodward of Upton upon Severn, Worcestershire. This name rang a bell. I recalled that in a High Court action in 1877 Robert Hanham Collyer, the defendant, referred to a case he had brought in the Court of Probate against somebody named Woodward in January 1876. Unfortunately, nearly all the records of the Court of Probate have been destroyed, and it seems that the papers for this case are not available to us. However, my guess is that RHC may well have been suing James P Woodward in respect of the probate of Susannah’s will. If I’m correct in this it means that RHC certainly knew about the date of Susannah’s death by 1876. Probably we shall never know whether he knew earlier than that, but I’ll keep a sharp eye open for further evidence.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *