Tuesday 13 December 2016

What can you find out from a will? – Part 3

The Elusive Charles Pearson …

In the last two posts I described the beneficiaries named in the will of my great-grandaunt, Emma Jane Wray. At the time of writing of those posts, I had been able to find all of them through various records and indexes except for one person – her nephew Charles Pearson. We could correctly surmise he was the son of one of Emma’s brothers.

Tied up with that problem was identifying Emma Jane’s brother, also named Charles Pearson. I know he was alive in 1896 because his name is on an account for his grandmother’s property which was settled after the death of his mother, Susannah, that year. I assumed he also lived in England.

My great-granduncle Charles (noted here as senior Charles, just to keep things straight) is shown on the 1871 England Census, aged 15, living with his parents and siblings and born in Australia. At the time he was a labourer in an ironworks. No birth record from Australia has been found for Charles but there seems little doubt from ship passenger records listing his family and the 1871 England census that he was born there.

I had found a series of records that offered a strong possibility for identifying the man but could not confirm he was my relative. There is a Charles Pearson, with various occupations, shown on several England censuses as being born in Australia. On every list his wife is named Annie. There is a possible marriage record for Charles Pearson and Annie Merry in 1877 in Leicester. I found all of the children that are shown on the censuses, Lily, Annie and Emma, with their mother's maiden name of Merry on the GRO index seemingly solidifying the relationships. As I have said before one can find the maiden names of mothers on the GRO index that do not appear on other databases such as FreeBMD, Ancestry or FindMyPast.

Details for Charles on the censuses are:
Great Jetten spinning
Range Fitter
Heating Engineer
“Eninger” (Engineer?)

Annie's birth place is shown as Leicester on all censuses except for 1911 where it is listed as Scotland. In spite of the differences in Charles ages, I believe they are the same family. Childrens’ names and ages are consistent throughout. I think the reference to Scotland in 1911 is wrong but I have no explanation of why that place would have written when Charles signed the form. It is possible, of course, that Annie, nee Merry, died and Charles married another woman named Annie before 1911. But then the number of children shown on the record would not fit for a second wife.

In 1881 a Mary A. Pearson, mother (presumably of Charles, the head of the household) is shown living with the family. I believe this was actually Annie's mother. On the same census it appears her father, William Merry, was an inmate in a workhouse in Leicester, indicating the family had fallen on hard times. Until I can confirm who this Mary A. Pearson is, there will be a question. But some other data, while indirect, gives me confidence I have the right people.

In 1901 a nephew named Charles Pearson was living with Charles, Annie and their daughters. He was nine years old and his place of birth was Leamington, Warwickshire. I thought, “Aha, this may be Emma’s missing nephew, but he was not the son of her brother, Charles.”

I looked further to see if I could find him on other records. A Charles Pearson, aged 19 and born in Leamington, was living with Joseph and Emmie Taylor in London in 1911. Charles was indicated to be Emmie’s brother which meant her maiden name would have been Pearson. OK, maybe “Emmie” was, in fact Emma Pearson, and Charles was not her brother but her cousin, the same person who lived with her family in Coventry in 1901. Both Joseph and Emmie were born in Coventry according to the 1911 census. It was also recorded they had been married for three years. A marriage for the couple took place in 1908 in Coventry, so we had that regional connection established on a few records.

I looked for young Charles on FreeBMD and found a birth possibility in the March quarter of 1892 in Warwick. It had a note attached to it, though, that said it was a late entry with the birth actually recorded in the March quarter of 1895. That was curious but I felt I was on the right track and pursued some other lines. I went back to search the GRO Index and found the birth of Charles Pearson registered in the March quarter of 1895, just like FreeBMD said. This one gave me the mother’s maiden name – Atkinson.

I had an Atkinson in the Pearson family. Isabella Atkinson married James Pearson, one of Emma Jane’s brothers, in 1883. Through census and other records I had seven children born to this couple, including a Thomas Alfred Pearson born in 1892. Now I potentially had another son, born the same year. The 1911 census had recorded that Isabella had had eight children with seven still living at the time.

On FindMyPast I found two military records for Charles Pearson, one for service in the Royal Navy and one for the Royal Air Force. They were for the same man, though, as both gave his birth date as 15 January 1892, birth place as Leamington, occupation as automobile mechanic and a physical description of him that matched exactly on both records. The navy record indicated he had been transferred to the air force, probably due to his mechanical experience.

Now I have to say that I had already found another son of James and Isabella, Thomas Alfred Pearson, on the 1939 register and it showed his birth date as 15 January 1892. Wow! Could they have been twins? But why would one registration have been done so late? Was the original registration for Samuel messed up and no one caught it for a few years? I intend to purchase both records and see if I can determine what the problem was.

The air force record showed Charles had a wife, Cecily, who lived at 51 Aklam Road, North Kensington, London. I looked for marriage information for a Charles Pearson and a lady named Cecily and found one on FreeBMD for Cecily Hefferman. They were married in 1916 in Kensington. That fit the time and place as Charles had been living in London in 1911. To my delight, a copy of the actual marriage entry was on Ancestry and showed Charles’s father was James Pearson (deceased) a coach body builder. Indeed that is what Emma’s brother was on the 1891 census that I already had.

James Pearson died in 1897, leaving Isabella with eight children, the youngest possibly being the five-year old twins. Perhaps she felt overwhelmed and jumped at an offer from her brother-in-law, Charles to take the boy in. Through his uncle, young Charles may have developed his interest in automobiles that were just arriving on the scene.

The circle seemed to be closing, notwithstanding a few questionable entries on some censuses, such as young Charles shown as a brother to Emmie Taylor in 1911, or Mary A. Pearson shown as mother to the senior Charles in 1881. I believe I will be able to show these were mistakes when I have obtained other BMD records. I am now quite sure that the senior Charles Pearson I have found on censuses who was born in Australia is my great-granduncle.

One thing that still needs to be determined is who the eight children were that the 1911 census shows the couple had. I have the names of the three that were indicated as living then but not all of the five who had died. I did find three boys whose mother’s maiden name was Merry on the GRO index but who died as infants. One was born in Leicester and two in Coventry, and dovetail with the three girls named on the censuses.

In unravelling the relationships, I relied on databases from Ancestry, FindMyPast and FreeBMD. I used the search option for the General Register Office indexes to narrow down births and deaths. I compared BMD, census (including the 1939 Register), military, probate calendar and ships passenger records for many family members. The new research path all started this time with the information in Great-Grandaunt Emma Jane’s will.

There are still many certificates that I need to order but everything seems to be coming together, filling in holes on the family tree.

1909 note on postcard to Emma Jane Pearson from her nephew, James Henry (Jim) Pearson and brother to young Charles Pearson; Jim was killed in France in 1915 before Emma Jane's wedding which may be the event referenced in his message. 
The close relationships of the Pearson siblings and their children are demonstrated, first in Emma Jane’s will but also in how they seemed to come together when they needed each other’s support. It appears there are some very interesting and poignant stories behind the data I have assembled. Hopefully I will be able to learn about a few of them.

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