Tuesday 8 November 2016

New Information on a Lost Great-Granduncle

For many years I have been searching for information about my paternal great-grandfather’s brother, Alfred Shepheard. He was a great-granduncle if anyone is trying to calculate the relationship. The last record on which he appeared was the 1881 England census for Torquay, Devon. He was still living at home with his parents, grandmother and three siblings. He was 21 years of age and a “Gentleman Servant”.

Then he disappeared. I have a photo of his three brothers taken around 1900 and have always wondered where Alfred was and why he was not in the picture. By then the three men had married and were living in scattered locations around England. It appears they all travelled to Taunton, Somerset, the home of the eldest brother, to have their picture taken together.

I have assumed that Alfred was dead by then, which is why he was not there, but cannot find a death record for him.

Recently I was trolling through newspapers on FindMyPast, as I do from time-to-time. I entered his name and, lo-and-behold, up popped a short news item from Plymouth published April 15th, 1891 in The Western Morning News that said: “Alfred Shepheard was at Plymouth yesterday fined 10s. 6d. for being drunk and driving a hansom furiously through Claremont-street. P.C. Prowse proved the case.”

“Wow!” I thought, “This could be our Alfred.” Plymouth is not that far from Torquay or from Cornwood parish where he was born. As a single guy, Alfred might well have moved around. Mind you he would have been about 31 by that time and should have known better, but…

Quite excited now, I dug a little deeper into the FindMyPast database and came up with an entry in the Devon, Plymouth prison records 1832-1919 Transcription file. This one had more detail on the man. Although it had his name spelled as Shepherd (It always happens with us!), it also said he was a 30 years old, 5’ 4 ½” tall, a Coachman (which might explain the joy ride with the horses), his religion of Church of England and that he had been born in Ivybridge, Devon. All of this fit with our Alfred and I am very sure he is my long lost great-granduncle.

By the way, he was sentenced to 14 days in the slammer and released on April 27th. He also spent his 31st birthday there, on April 24th. I bet that was some party!

I still have not found him on the 1891 census (although one might think he would have been living in Plymouth then) or any further information as to a marriage or death. But at least I now have him 10 years further along that I had a month ago.

There are a surprising number of references to men of the same name and same spelling but I have found none that really match. So what happened to Alfred after April 1891 is still a mystery. Perhaps a search of the databases in another few months or years might turn up another lead.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. He has also served as an editor of two such publications. Wayne provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

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