Geoffs Genealogy Update 30 November 2010
Tuesday November 30th, 2010 | Geoff
Well, the weather here in Blighty certainly has taken on a wintery chill in the past week. As I write this we in Shropshire have a covering of snow on the ground and are having to contend with icy roads and footpaths as we wend our way to the office or the shops etc. It’s very unusual for this sort of wintry weather to invade our shores so early – winter hasn’t even started yet – and following quite a harsh winter last year it certainly is most unwelcome. To counter thoughts of the winter chill I am keeping my mind on the fact that it is only seven months to our Reunion of Bankes Descendants, which will undoubtedly be held in blazing sunshine, next June.
Bookings for the reunion are going well, and we expect to have a great day, with people from all the branches of descent from John Bankes’ siblings in attendance. I do hope that if you are a Bankes descendant you will reserve yourself a place at this event as soon as possible. Just to clarify, the only qualification you need to be able to attend is that you are able to trace your ancestry to a sibling of John Bankes, Citizen and Haberdasher of London (abt 1650 – 1719). It doesn’t have to be a male line of descent. My ancestral link back to Mary Mitchell is mainly via a female line, but I am still very much a Bankes descendant, and proud of it! If you are not sure whether you can qualify, have a look at my website, and see whether you can find your forebears on the Bankes Pedigree. If you are still not sure whether you are a Bankes descendant send me an email using one of the links on my website. I’ll be delighted to hear from you.
Just to clarify, the half siblings of John Bankes were:
John Rand (abt 1661 – bef 1716)
Joseph Rand (abt 1665 – bef 1708)
Mary Mitchell (abt 1668 – 1739)
Elizabeth Hopkins (abt 1662 – 1728)
Anne Deane (abt 1679 – aft 1733)
A couple of months ago I told you about my research into the first known wife of Robert Hanham Collyer (RHC) (1814 – abt 1891). You may recall that I had traced the death and probate record of Susannah Hawley MacDonald (abt 1815 – 1869) and had learned quite a lot about her and her kinsfolk. At the time I ordered a copy of her will from the UK Probate service. In the past I have found that a copy of a will would take but a few days to arrive, but in this case it took a whole month before I received it! When it came it was accompanied by a note apologising for the delay, which was caused by a huge increase in the number of orders for copy wills. Apparently steps are being taken to deal with the situation, which I assume means extra staff. It does not surprise me that the number of orders for copy wills has gone up so markedly. After all, the Probate Calendars from 1858 onwards started to appear on Ancestry.co.uk during the summer, and one would expect this to result in a significant number of orders. Hopefully the Probate Service will get this sorted out sooner rather than later. It must be quite a money-spinner for them.
Anyway, Susannah’s will was an interesting document, which yielded several important pieces of information.
Firstly, it named the cemetery in which she wanted to be buried. Not that unusual in itself, but what was unusual was the fact that she stated that her son had been buried in grave number 16074 at Kensal Green Cemetery in West London, and she wished to be buried with him. Kensal Green is a vast cemetery, and I feel sure that quite a few Bankes descendants were buried there. I have never searched its burial registers, but I certainly need to do so sometime. I believe that a copy of the early records – up to 1872 – is held at London Metropolitan Archives, so I should add this to my ever growing research list for my next trip to London. The cemetery is owned privately, by the General Cemetery Company, and I guess they may be able to advise the whereabouts of the more recent records.
Susannah named her deceased son as Summer MacDonald – an unusual forename, I think you will agree. I have encountered Summer previously, as a passenger list dated 28 July 1845 recorded his arrival in New York with his mother and stepfather – Robert Hanham Collyer – after crossing the Atlantic from Liverpool on the vessel St Patrick. Actually, in this record, Summer was named as Somerset R McDonald, and his age stated as 7 years. Thus he was apparently born c 1838, about two years after Susannah had married her first spouse, Robert Collins MacDonald. To date my efforts to trace Summer / Somerset in the records have proved unsuccessful, but I am keeping an eye open for him as I carry out my research. It is perfectly possible that he was not born in England or Wales, as I do not know where his family may have been at the time of his birth.
Another interesting aspect of Susannah MacDonald’s will is that she gave information about deceased members of her family. If I had not already known I would have learned that her late father was James Clarke of Sid Abbey in Devon. Her deceased spouse – Robert Collins MacDonald – was a Major in the service of the East India Company.
The will had three codicils, each of them revising the bequests. Through these codicils we can see that prior to 1863 Susannah had been resident in Bath, Somerset, but in 1863 she was living in Bayswater, Middlesex. When she made her first codicil in 1865 she had moved back to Bath, but by the date of her second codicil in 1867 she had returned to live in Bayswater and she was still living there when she died, in 1869.
Bequests were made to a number of family members, but the over-riding thing about this will so far as I’m concerned was that at no point did Susannah name her second husband, Robert Hanham Collyer (RHC). At the time this will was made RHC was in his second marriage, to Emily Jeans Clements Collyer – a marriage that was annulled in 1864, because at the time of the ceremony Susannah was still alive (see previous blog postings). It seems that the break-up of Susannah’s marriage to RHC was probably a stormy affair, and she cut him out of her life completely, reverting to her first husband’s surname. However, as it seems that the couple were never actually divorced, legally they were still married at the time of Susannah’s death, and my understanding is that under the law relating property belonging to married women, RHC would have had a good claim to her estate. My assumption is that that is why RHC sued Susannah’s executor in the Court of Chancery in 1875-6. However, the available records indicate that he did not win his case.