27 April 2015

#52Ancestors - Week 18 - Where there's a Will

Week 18 (April 30 – May 6) – Where There’s a Will: Do you have an ancestor who left an interesting will? Have you used a will to solve a problem? Or, what ancestor showed a lot of will in his or her actions?

Have I used a will to solve a problem? The answer to that is "No" - the will that features in this week's post just caused more confusion at the time I got a copy of it in 2009, but a bit of additional research today (25/04/2015) has cleared the fog just a little.

Last Will and Testament of Thomas Dobson - Source Her Majesty's Court Service

A partial transcription of the document:
This is the last Will and Testament of me Thomas Dobson of the Bath Hotel Moor Street Bishopwearmouth in the County of Durham - Publican. I give and bequeath unto my housekeeper Mary Ann Ellen Garrett of the Bath Hotel aforesaid all and singular my estate and effects both real and personal whatsoever and wheresoever the same may be and of what nature or kind soever. To hold the same to the said Mary Ann Ellen Garrett absolutely. I appoint the said Mary Ann Ellen Garrett sole Executrix of this my will and hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time heretofore made do declare this to be my last Will and Testament. In witness whereby I have hereunto set my hand this seventh day of August one thousand eight hundred and eighty five.
Thomas Dobson

Or, per a paraphrase of my mother's Uncle Andy "she got the lot and wasted it".

So why was I confused? The will looks fairly clear cut, right? Let me tell you about the people named in the Will.

Thomas Dobson is my great great grandfather. Son of Nicholas Dobson and Eleanor Graham he was born July 12, 1836 in Darlington Durham England and died June 3, 1889 in Sunderland Durham England.

According to Thomas' will, Mary Ann Ellen Garrett was his housekeeper. But there is a lot more to it than that. One of the "more to its" is that her name, as far as I have found (with the help of Val Atkinson from British Ancestors) is actually Ellen not Mary Ann Ellen. 

Ellen's birth certificate says she was born on April 7, 1838 in Bradford Yorkshire the daughter of Edward Stewart and Margaret Stewart formerly Garrett.

Ellen had 2 older siblings, Isabella (1831 - 1889) and Edward (1834 - 1834), and 2 younger siblings, John Edward (c1840 - ?) and Margaret (c1843 - 1912)
Isabella and Edward were baptised at the Primitive Methodist Church Bradford and are listed as children of Edward and Margaret Steward.

These records led me (and Val) to believe that Edward Stewart/Steward and Margaret Garrett were married before records required by law started being kept in 1837 (prior to this we had Parish Records only) - but Val was unable to find a church record of their marriage anywhere near where they were known to live.

So what else do we know?
Ellen was Thomas' "housekeeper". Thomas was married to Elizabeth Turnbull and had 2 children with her (Rachel Turnbull Dobson and Mary Dobson) they separated some time between 1857 and 1861. In the 1861 census, Elizabeth and the girls are living with her parents and Thomas is living with "Eleanor" Steward, his housekeeper.

Thomas and Elizabeth never divorced, so Ellen was "legally" Thomas' housekeeper during their nearly 30 year relationship - and this is correctly shown in his will. Elizabeth, however did marry twice more (something that has apparently scandalised the person researching the Turnbulls - I never heard from them again once we worked that out.)

What else do we know about Ellen? Looking through the birth certificates of her children with Thomas, she is known by a number of different names:
In 1869 Helen Dobson formerly Stewart (likely a mishearing of Ellen)
In 1871 Ellen Dobson formerly Stewart
In 1874 Mary Dobson formerly Garrett
In 1876 Ellen Dobson formerly Stewart
In 1878 Mary Ann Dobson formerly Garrot

Here we have a combination of names that make up Mary Ann Ellen Garrett.

But why was Ellen named in the will as Garrett when her parents were married at the time of her birth?
According to the Freebmd.org.uk listing I found just today, apparently Edward and Margaret weren't legally married until 1853 - when their youngest child, Margaret, was about 10 years old!

This then shows us, that despite the birth record, Ellen Stewart was "illegitimate" and correctly named as Garrett in Thomas' will.

I'm not sure why she is listed as Mary Ann Ellen instead of just Ellen in the will, but, in the words of Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman, "2 out of 3 ain't bad"

Ellen passed away on September 15, 1920 in Sunderland Durham England.

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