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.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Death Ends Long Series of Sorrows for Martha Vousden

The title of this post is taken from a report in the Washington Times of 5th July, 1910, Last Edition, Page 3 (left). It concerns the life and death in Hillsdale, Michigan, U.S., of Martha Vousden, the identity of whom we will return to later.

I can do no better than reproduce the report word for word.

"At the age of seventy-two Martha Vousden, spinster, is dead at the county farm. Born in England, she followed her betrothed to America tracing her way through the forests of Michigan until she found him at Hillsdale, wedded to another.

"She never returned to her home, but worked at various hotels in this city and elsewhere in southern Michigan for a number of years until confined to the county home a dozen years ago.

"She was badly crippled, having been in two fires, the last one at Marshall, when she fell from the second story to the sidewalk below, breaking through an iron grating. She was injured permanently."

If Martha was 72 years old when she died in 1910 then she was born in about 1837 or 1838. If so I am fairly sure that this Martha was the daughter of Samuel Moses and Hannah (née Watts) Vousden. Moses, as he was generally known, was born in Goudhurst, Kent, England in September 1799. He married Hannah on 10th July 1823 in her nearby home village of Hawkhurst, where they settled to live. Moses worked as a carpenter.

Martha was the fifth of seven children, born in 1836 or 1837. She was at home in the U.K. censuses of 1841, 1851 and 1861 but I have not found her in the 1871. I think she had left for America before then, in search of her betrothed. Her father Samuel died in 1865, and her mother died in 1868.

In the U.S. 1880 census Martha was working as a cook in a hotel in Quincy, Branch County, Michigan, aged 40 years, just as the Washington Times reported. She lived another 30 years, never returning home to England. Notwithstanding the gloomy picture painted by the newspaper report, I hope that she found some happiness in Michigan during those years.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Vousdens and slavery in the US

I have discovered a Ben and Mary Vousden and their five children, in Mississippi in the early years of the nineteenth century. I found the reference to this family (via Google Books) in Statutes of the Mississippi Territory and Such Acts of Congress as Relate to the Mississippi Territory, published in Natchez, Mississippi in 1824.

In 1822 the State of Mississippi revised and consolidated all statutes in force at the time, including laws relating to the slave population, and this book is the revised code. Chapter 24 is a Summary of private and local Acts, and sub-titled Sales of Estate by Executors, Administrators, Guardians, etc.

In a section called Persons Emancipated, on page 578, we find "Mary, late the wife of a free person of color, named Ben alias Ben Vousden of Adams county, deceased whom the said Ben purchased of Major Stephen Minor, she being at the time of said purchase, the wife of said Ben."

An act passed December 10, 1816 emancipated Mary, a negro woman, slave, also the five children of Ben and Mary: Louisa, Rachel, Sandy, Mary Ann and Benjamin.

The same act made the county court of Adams county responsible for the children's education, requiring that they "shall be taught to read, write and cypher as far as the Rule of Three, and to be treated and provided for in all respects as apprentices." Also, it provided that " the said children shall have the surname of Vousden and shall be entitled as heirs to the estate of said Ben, alias Ben Vousden, deceased."

A census of the Inhabitants of Mississippi in 1816 - Adams County includes the Estate of Ben Vousdan.

This act of emancipation and the fact that Ben is "alias Vousden", means that his former owner was a man named Vousden. I think I have identified the slave owner, one William Vousden, described elsewhere as "an Irish gentleman of education and means". He was also a very wealthy man.

His mansion and plantation, known as "Cotton Fields", lay on both sides of St. Catherine Creek, at the crossing from Washington to Natchez, beginning at the Dry or Dewitt's Bayou. He was amongst the first to introduce the cultivation of cotton for export in the area.

The early French settlers in the Grand Village of the Natchez settlement district, from the 1720s onwards, established farmsteads and, in two cases, large tobacco plantations between the bluffs and St. Catherine Creek. One known as the St. Catherine Concession was located on St. Catherine Creek.

Natchez was the state’s most active slave trading city in the decades prior to the American Civil War, where enslaved Africans were bought and sold. Natchez played a significant role in the southward movement of the existing slave population to the waiting cotton plantations of the Deep South. Between 1800 and 1860 more than 750,000 slaves were moved from the upper to the lower South, as tobacco declined and cotton replaced it in the economy.

The 19th century slave trade in Mississippi was linked to the growth of the textile industry in England, which had created a voracious market for cotton by the end of the 18th century. Cotton planters in Mississippi and in neighboring states quickly found that slave labor made their business highly profitable. Many slaves were living on the century-old tobacco plantations.

Slave sales at Natchez were held in a number of locations, but one market place eclipsed the others, the market known as "The Forks of the Road" at the intersection of Liberty Road and Washington Road about one mile east of downtown Natchez. (Today, Washington Road is named “D’Evereux Drive,” which changes to “St. Catherine Street” at the Liberty Road intersection.)

Enslaved people were brought down the Natchez Trace to the Forks via Washington (D’Evereux west) Road. Those walked over from the lower southeastern states were brought to the Forks via Old Courthouse Road. Those shipped around on the Atlantic Ocean and down and up the Mississippi River highway routes were off-loaded at Natchez-Under-the-Hill's wharfs and walked out to the Forks via St. Catherine Street.

The last sales at the Forks happened just months before the Union troops occupied Natchez in July 1863, bringing the Emancipation Proclamation and ending slavery in the area. Freed slaves flocked to town from the surrounding countryside, many settling here at the Forks near an encampment of black, Union soldiers who may have used the buildings as barracks. Thus the Forks of the Road market became a refuge for hundreds of emancipated people.

But back to William Vousden. In the Spanish Census of the Natchez District of the Mississippi Territory of 1792 (heads of households only) he is listed in Santa Catalina district as Guillermo Vousdan. Moreover,'s Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s has 4 results for Guillermo or William Vousdan, but at present I don't have access to these records.

That is most of what I have unearthed so far. I wish to trace both William Vousdan and also Ben Vousdan and their families.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Agnes Annie Vousden (1881-1947)

In November 2008 I received an enquiry from a Vousden descendant in New Zealand about her great uncle Hillary Charles Vousden. We sorted him out and I learnt that my enquirer is the grand daughter of his sister Agnes Annie, born in Goudhurst on 28 November 1881 who emigrated to New Zealand with her husband (or husband to be?) Ralph. They had two children in Christchurch, where she died in 1947, three years after Ralph.

Earlier this month I received an enquiry from a Vousden descendant in Australia. She had just discovered her father's birth certificate, upon which his mother is listed as Agnes Annie Vousden. It turns out that my two enquirers are first cousins who had lost touch with each other over the years. I have put them back in contact now.

Our common ancestors are my 5 times great grandparents Thomas Vousden and Sarah Borman, me through their son Thomas, they through their son William and his wife Mercy Hyder, amongst whose children were George Thomas, father of Agnes Annie.

Agnes Annie was one of twelve children of George Thomas (1851-1939) and Martha (née Lovell) (1859-1927) Vousden. In birth order they were: John William, Hillary Charles, Agnes Annie, Winifred Maude, George Thomas, Mabel Victoria, Edith Lucy, Sidney Edward, Gertrude Beatrice, Fred James, Alice Minnie Kathleen and Daisy Rose Violet. They are all my 3rd cousins 3 times removed.

Their great grandfather George was in turn one of the twelve children of John (1817-1895) and Jane (née Dadson) (1820-1870) Vousden. They were Mary Jane, John William, Mary Anne, Samuel Hilary, George Thomas, Edward Alfred, Mary Anne (a second), Anne Elizabeth, Frederick Charles, Sarah Anne, Edwin Pryor and Jack. Jane Dadson's father was Hilary Dadson, hence the name of one of Agnes Annie's brothers and one of her father's too. John was widowed by Jane's death in 1870 and in the same year he re-married to Annie Clouty.

John was one of eight children of William (1777-1857) and Mercy (née Hyder) Vousden: Sarah, William, Thomas, Mary Ann, Richard, Liberty, John and James Hyder. William's brother Thomas was my 4 x great grandfather.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Another Mary Ann Vousden - my great grandfather's sister

In July 2006 I posted a message on's online Pickess Family Genealogy Forum about Mary Ann Vousden's marriage to William Charles Pickis. She was my great grandfather Daniel Vousden's sister. They married at West Ham Parish Church on 25 June 1904.

I should mention that there are of course many Mary Ann Vousdens. Another one of them is the subject of other articles on this blog.

Today I received a message from Mary Ann and William's great grandson and now I am looking forward to hearing from my new-found cousin.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Edwin's Story

Today I received a copy of the fascinating book Edwin's Story and a Vousden family tree that takes a contemporary family back to Richard Vousden (1735-1807), my 5 x great grandfather's brother.

Edwin left a handwritten account of his life through to the early 1930s.

Edwin Vousden (1859-1936) was born in Brenchley, worked on a farm from the age of 11, and then went into service as a groom, working in London and Gloucestershire. Finally, in 1897, he became a baker and grocer in the village of Liddington, Wiltshire.

The family tree and the information in the book add greatly to my knowledge of the Brenchley branch of the Vousdens, started when Edwin's great grandfather Richard left Goudhurst to marry Mary Jarrett there in 1759.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mary Ann Vousden - more on Sister Marian

Since my first posting on Mary Ann Vousden less than a fortnight ago I have pursued her from London to New Zealand and back to Hastings, Kent. Whilst I have not yet found a civil record of her birth, or a baptism record, nevertheless I have conclusively identified her.

I obtained a copy of the book 'Community of the Sacred Name, A Centennial History' by Ruth Fry, an account of life in the Anglican religious order in Christchurch in which Mary Ann spent her years in New Zealand. From this book I gleaned one or two more facts about her life, and a photograph that includes her.

I also obtained Mary Ann's death certificate from which I learnt that she died on 2 July 1920 at 19 Brook Street, Hastings, Kent of cancer and bronchitis. Her death certificate provides two vital clues as to her family origins. Firstly, she was described as "Spinster Deaconess. Formerly Hospital Nurse. Daughter of James Vousden a Timber-hewer (deceased)." It is very rare indeed to find a father's name on a UK death certificate, especially for a 75 year old woman, but this was not the decisive piece of evidence.

The second clue was that the registrar was informed of her death by "E.H. Woodyer, sister". At first I thought this person might be a nursing sister but I checked the UK national marriage index and found a Vousden-Woodyer marriage between an Elizabeth Hider Vousden and William Woodyer, in Lambeth, Surrey (now south London) in the April-June quarter of 1870. Elizabeth Hider is known to me, she had a sister Mary Ann, and their parents were James Hider Vousden and Elizabeth nee Waghorn.

I then found James and Elizabeth and their children in the 1851 census, in Goudhurst, including daughter Mary Ann, aged 6. This age is an exact match for the Mary Ann Vousden already identified in the 1871 and 1881 censuses. Clearly, the 1851/1871/1881 census ages and the age given on her death certificate all point to a birth year of 1844/5.

Mary Ann Vousden's grandparents were William and Mercy Vousden, the same couple who feature in an earlier blog: Walter Vousden and the Town Crier of Niagara Falls. Her great grandparents, Thomas and Sarah (nee Borman) Vousden were my 5 x great grandparents, making us second cousins 4 times removed, and so yet another "stray" Vousden is re-located into Goudhurst.

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