Geoffs Genealogy Update 2 July 2012

Monday July 2nd, 2012 | Geoff

My mother frequently spoke of her Uncle Jim. He and his wife – Ophelia – lived part of their lives in North London and part on the Sussex coast. I’m not at all sure when they were living in the Brighton area, but I do recall Mum telling me that Uncle Jim had his own business, was better off than many people in the 1920s and 1930s, and when Mum’s parents fell on hard times Uncle Jim helped them out considerably. Thus, some of mum’s formative years were spent living in the Brighton area.

Uncle Jim was James Archer Smith. He was born in the St Lukes district of London in 1877, the eldest child of James William Smith (b 1853) and Hannah Elizabeth Guyatt (1857-1903). I wanted to find out about this man, who helped my mother’s family so much, so over the years I have taken every opportunity to research him. As I’m sure you will appreciate, researching Smiths is not at all easy, so progress has been anything but smooth. I have proceeded by getting as far as I can at a given time, and keeping an eye open for any previously unsearched sources that may become available that may help me. When such a source appears, I avidly search it for evidence of Uncle Jim and his family.  

In my blog entry of January 2008 I mentioned that I had traced the identity of James’s first spouse – Ophelia Kerr (nee Worthy) (1865-1928). She was my mother’s Aunt Ophelia. I knew that James had remarried and had a daughter by his second spouse, but could not find the second marriage.  I was not helped by the fact that the marriage indexes for the relevant period do not show the full names of the participants. There were masses of James A Smiths, and I had no way of working out which of them was likely to have been Uncle Jim.

Recently Ancestry added a lot of London Electoral Rolls to the digitised collection of records on their website, so I eagerly searched these for James Archer Smith. Hey presto, I found him! There were a couple of entries relating to him, and the one dated 1931 showed that living in the same accommodation was a certain Susannah Smith. I had previously been told that the name of James’s second wife was possibly “something like Sylvia”. Susannah seemed to fit the bill.

I then searched the civil registration marriage indexes for a James A Smith marrying a lady named Susannah, probably in London. It didn’t take long to find a suitable entry and order a copy of the certificate. I expect you’ve guessed that it was the correct certificate, so now I have traced both of Uncle Jim’s marriages.

Jim’s second wife was Susannah Murray (nee Warrington). She was a 35 years old widow when James married her at Shoreditch Register Office in London on 20th June 1929 – only 18 months after the death of his first wife. James died in Brighton in 1957, his death being registered by his daughter. I wondered whether his wife had died before him, and traced a likely death certificate, which proved that Susannah had died in 1950 in Brighton.

I’m sure there is more to learn about Uncle Jim and his family – I’d love to see a photograph of him, for instance – but I am more or less satisfied that I’ve pieced together the bare bones of his life, and thus another piece of a vast jigsaw is in place.

Now, where to find out about all those other Smiths?

On a completely different tack, we have in mind the possibility of holding another Reunion of John Bankes Descendants in June 2013. This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there were a number of people who could not attend the reunion we held a year ago, and we think it would be great if they could come along and enjoy a smashing day meeting relatives, perhaps making some new friends, and maybe learning a bit about their family’s history. Secondly, I think that everybody who attended the first reunion agreed that it had been a smashing day on which they thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and I think that it may be a  good idea to repeat the experience.

In a few days shall be contacting people to gauge the level of interest there is in a second reunion, but if you are a Bankes descendant and this is something that interests you please do contact me using one of the email links on the Geoffs Genealogy website to register your interest. I will then get in touch with you as soon as I can.

5 responses to “Geoffs Genealogy Update 2 July 2012”

  1. The name Banks runs through the family I believe from a testator of a will named John Banks circa 1711 and my eldest nephew was the last person to claim from the fund (Ashley McIntyre) I have a copy cf the family tree but when I get to my grand mothers era late 1800 (Mary ellan Jones)it all falls apart ,if this information is of any help to youand I can help any further let me know Regards Geoff

  2. Neil Price says:

    I was interested to read about various Prices you had researched around the Haberdashers Company records. My great grandfather Alfred Price (b 26 Dec 1824) was the son of a John Price, of whom we know very little other than he was perhaps a merchant of gold lace and whose funeral occurred during the riots caused by the Reform Bill (presumably 1831/2). Alfred was the middle of 3 sons and strangely, on the marriage records of the 2 that married, the father is referred to as “Charles Price” – all other references being to John. I do know far more about the mother of the 3 sons. She was Sarah Price (nee Peake) and was born in Stafford, the daughter of an architect. I have completely failed to find any record of the marriage (presumably c1820). Sarah was born in 1795 and died, after a long widowhood, in Edinburgh on 7 December 1877.
    If any of this rings any bells with you, following your research of the Bankes, I would be delighted to hear from you.

  3. Dirk says:

    Ophelia was my great great grandma. My great grandad was William Kerr from her first marriage to the older William Kerr.

    • Geoff says:

      Hi Dirk
      Many thanks for your message through my website. I am delighted to hear from you. My mother was Alice Dorothy Ophelia Smith (1918-1990). As you will have gathered, her uncle Jim was James Archer Smith and your 2 x gt grandmother was mum’s aunt through her second marriage..

      Mum’s third forename was given to her after your 2 x gt grandma. She had very fond memories of James & Ophelia, particularly as they helped mum’s family a lot when they fell on hard times. So she quite often used to talk about them. Sadly, I didn’t write down all the things mum told me, and so most of it is lost to me.

      Mum’s parents were George Wm Smith (1886-1940) and Alice Louisa Holliday (1891-1982), my grandparents. George had a greengrocery shop in Clapton, London, and was James’ brother.

      I assume that you are interested in your family history. If you would like any information from me please feel free to ask me and I shall try to help. If you feel able to give me any information about your family I would be grateful

  4. Dirk says:

    I tried to reply directly but there was a postmaster error (mailbox full??) so I’m posting it here
    My great aunt, daughter of William Kerr was also called Ophelia! Though she went by Phyllis or Phyll. My grandma is called Patricia. I know they were in Brixton growing up and William ran a fruit and veg stall. From records it seems his mum, the Ophelia we share, was an umbrella maker?
    William Kerr (Jr) married Margaret Gannon and had four children.
    My grandma is still alive, the others are all dead. Margaret, the oldest and Edward the second youngest died before I was born. Ophelia died in 2012.
    Im happy to tell you any more you wanted to know.
    I don’t know if you’d know, but I wondered if they had Romany heritage just because the name Ophelia is one I’ve only encountered in Romany or Jewish families and umbrella making and market trading are traditional Romany, traveller or Jewish jobs. Also because my grandma has quite olive skin and Ophelia had darker skin and wavy dark hair, her daughter and granddaughter also do.
    I’m assuming they weren’t Jewish as all the records seem to be from C of E churches or registry offices
    Thank you again for any help, I was excited to find her on your site!

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