Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The search for Ella's Vousden family

Today we have solved another small Vousden mystery.

In February 2008 I was contacted by Gavin Grant in New Zealand who asked simply: "My grandmother Ella Beecher birth 1879, mother's maiden name was Vousden. I would like any help finding her and her link to the Vousdens."

I searched for an Ella (or Ellen or Eleanor) Beecher with a mother whose maiden name was Vousden, to no avail. Five months later, my correspondent had tracked down Ella's marriage record, on FIBIS (the Families in British India web site) Bengal Marriages. She had married Ernest Thomas Fulcher in Bombay on the 15th May 1903. Her father's name was William Beecher, so now we were looking for a Vousden married to William Beecher. This was a bit more to be going on with, but still we could not find Ella's mother.

All this searching for the Vousden connection was based on a letter from his Aunty which said "Grannie's parents were from Kent, her mother's name was Vousden of German origin".

By now Gavin Grant knew that Ella's birth date was 25th August 1879, the same year as her husband Thomas Ernest Fulcher, August 4th 1879. Moreover, he had Ernest's service records from the First World War (he was stationed in India, Burma and Ceylon). It made interesting reading: he enlisted in 1892 and retired in 1934 in Ceylon as a Major. He was now seeking out his Ceylon Defence Force records for 1907-1934 and following up the "Shipping Lists" for any more information that might be gleaned about the India connection.

Meanwhile, we were still pursuing Ella, and the possibility that William Beecher was a stepfather and her mother may have married a William Beecher after she was born and that is why her maiden name is not showing as a Vousden as she would have remarried in her married name. Still to no avail.

Today, more than a year later, I heard again from Gavin after his breakthrough in finding a 1922 passenger shipping list for the Ship "City of Valencia" Liverpool to Ceylon, wherein were Ella Fulcher (née Beecher), his mother N'Eilya Fulcher and her sister Marjory (author of the letter that initiated the Vousden quest). Their last address in England was in Plumstead, London, S.E.18. He had then searched on the same address in the 1911 census which came up with a William Beecher Domestic Gardener aged 80, a widower. Then the 1881 census revealed the following: William Beecher b1831, Francis his Wife (née Skinner) b1839 Hadlow Kent, John son b1865, Harry son b1871, Esther Frances daughter b1875, and Thomas Beecher b1878. All the Beechers were born in Tonbridge, Kent.

The shipping list and the censuses all have the same address, which narrows things down but is not conclusive. Gavin now thought that Ella was Esther Frances Beecher b 1875, and I think he is right in this, but it was still a mystery that his Aunt Marjory stated that Ella's mother's name before marriage was Vousden. He concluded: "I can't seem to find any proof to substantiate this. Was Frances Skinner previously married? I would appreciate any of your thoughts and suggestions."

It took no time at all to realise that indeed I did know the answer. The clue was in the surname SKINNER! I recalled a Vousden family tree given to me a year or two ago that included a Vousden/Skinner marriage, and quickly turned up my record of a 3 year old Francis (sic!) Skinner in the 1841 census, living next door to a William Vousden. Little Frances was living with her widowed mother Sarah Skinner, and her parents, Thomas and Elizabeth Brooker, in Hadlow, Kent.

So, to cut the rest of the story short, it was not Ella's mother Francis Skinner who had previously been married, but Ella's grandmother Sarah-Anne to give her full name, who was a Brooker, married to a Skinner, widowed, and re-married to William Vousden.

This turns out to be the Fulcher family story about their Vousden connection, almost as re-counted by Gavin's Aunty Marjory in her letter. It was not Ella Beecher's mother's maiden name that was Vousden, but Ella's mother's second marriage to a Vousden. Also, at least one of Ella's brothers adopted the Vousden surname after his mother's re-marriage.

Job done.