Saturday, November 12, 2016

A treasure out of the blue ..........

Family history and the research thereof has been my avocation for close to twenty years. During that time I have found ‘previously unknown’ cousins of all degrees from the UK to western Canada, Australia and even in my own city – it has been quite a trip. The greater part of my work has involved repositories in Wales, Scotland, England and ‘both’ Irelands as well as Canada - with an awful lot of help along the way. For the last five years however I have been fairly inactive, having pretty much exhausted all available sources. 

Then, along came this ………… Within the genealogy community there are central message boards where one is able to leave requests for help, be it with family names, locations or even research avenues. Not having left such a request in a very, very long time, it was a complete surprise a couple of months back when I received a response to one by way of an email sent through Rootsweb. 

A gentleman in Wales, in helping clear the home of a relative’s parents who had both recently passed away, had happened across a suitcase in the attic labelled ‘Cecil Stockwood’. A genealogist, he initially attempted to find links between the name on the suitcase & his relative’s family – and found none. He went to the message boards on the off chance that someone was researching Stockwood, and found me. After the first contact, he sent scanned images of some photographs and a hand-written family tree….. then kindly offered to pack everything up and send it off to me.

 An absolute treasure trove arrived. 

The minute I first saw the name, I was 99.9% sure that Cecil Stockwood was my Gran’s first cousin of that name and the hand-written family tree served to confirm that. My gg-grandfather Thomas Stockwood was drowned at sea in 1874 on the shoals at Sancti Petri, off Cadiz, Spain. He left behind his wife Angelina, two children, Thomas William & Annie Gertrude, and a third child on the way who proved to be our great-grandfather Alfred John. Three years later, in 1877, when their mother and paternal grandfather passed away within months of one another, the children were left with no means of support. Young Alfred John was placed with a maternal uncle, Annie Gertrude was admitted to the Mueller Orphanage and Thomas William became a youthful clerk to family members running the Junction Hotel in Taff’s Well. The children were effectively separated and from all indications, lost touch. My late uncle once said that Gran never mentioned any family belonging to her father ……….. except to say that she was related to the Archbishop, which she indeed was. Cecil was Thomas William’s eldest child – he had a sister Lily (called Poppy) & also a brother, Hubert. 

 Cecil Thomas Stockwood …. 1900 - 1967  

 This photograph is inscribed on the reverse, “Thomas Stockwood”. 
There are many “Thomas” in this family, but the most likely one I think would be Thomas William, Cecil’s father and brother to g-grandad Alfred John 

Cecil passed away in 1967; his wife Doris in 1993 and since they had no children, it appears that the contents of the suitcase were left in limbo, ending up in the aforementioned attic. Although the contents do not contribute a significant amount to our tree, they are an intimate portrait of their life & love at the beginning of the 20th century. 

 .a photograph album inscribed ‘to Auntie, Christmas 1918, from Cecil” … he does not name Auntie so I shall have to see if there were any maternal aunts – he had only Annie Gertrude on his father’s side or perhaps Alfred John’s wife Eveline, but I doubt it would be this last 

 . a second album, this one of a trip to Europe in 1927 taken by Cecil, his sister Poppy and two friends. There are photos of Cannes & Mont St Michel – all accompanied by letters from the Hotel Biarritz home to Doris (not his wife at that point) expressing how much he misses her – he was very romantic, poetry and all. 

 . a series of letters from Cecil to Doris in which he calls her ‘Cromwell’ – these are of a more intellectual bent but romantic just the same 

 . Certificates of business proficiency issued to Doris in the early 20s in Cardiff 

 . official thank yous for her participation in the Home Guard in WWII, her ration book & identity card 

 . certificates of merit for courses taken by Cecil in his capacity as an employee of the Great Western Railway – it seems his father was also a railway employee and I know his g-grandfather William (my ggg-grandfather) to be stationmaster for the Taff Vale at Pentyrch 

 . correspondence from a family friend who was helping to clear out Poppy’s home after she passed away as well as paperwork relating to her death – Poppy and her husband also died childless 

 . correspondence from friends in Europe before Cecil’s death & afterwards 

 . dozens of condolence cards received by Doris upon Cecil’s death 

 . not to mention the hand-written family tree 

 . photographers’ envelopes containing b&w photos, some are copies of those in the albums, some later

. photographs by the dozen, unfortunately most subjects are unidentified but I feel as did the gentleman who found the suitcase, that most would prove to be family & friends of Doris.

. Studio portraits of all sizes including close to two dozen cartes de visite.  

. a possible daguerreotype 

 . there is even a certificate of shares in a long defunct company ….. 

 . various certificates of birth, marriage & death 

 . photographs of company ‘outings’ 

 . and of his acceptance into the “Pelman Institute” (google it )….. 

 I am sure I must have left something out, but you get the gist………. 

So far I have read only a small portion of the letters and what I see makes me want to hibernate for a bit & read everything! There are letters from friends in nearby England, from friends and family during WWII stationed in such diverse places as Iceland, India and Ceylon. Unfortunately, preparing for the arrival of the chubby man in the red suit precludes that right now, but once his visit is done, I will get to it!

 As I sit here I foresee future blogs with more photographs and excerpts from the letters ……. 

 Stay tuned …