Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Tapplys of Wittersham

Charles and Ellen Tapply-Whitehorse Beach, Cape Cod abt 1931
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Family myths and family stories are a funny thing. They tend to take on a life of their own. My mother wrote a letter to England during the Blitz of WWII because her grandfather's brother George Tapply
was living in Kent, in the path of the bombers. He wrote back from a little village called Whitstable,
which is right on the coast on the Thames estuary. Apparently it's known for oyster farming. Ever
after that my mother reported to various family members that the Tapplys came from Whitstable. Or
at least by the time she was grown and people became curious that was the family story. When I began
looking into the Tapply family I had this reported to me as absolute fact by various members of the Tapply family. Courtesy of mom as I soon discovered.....

I began by looking for census records for Charles and Ellen somewhere in Kent. When I found them and their various family members a family myth fell to pieces. As it turned out, the family of Charles'
generation and his father James Henry lived in the tiny village of Wittersham near Tenterden. I found them there on multiple census records along with James Henry and various brothers and sisters. Later, when the family was almost grown, they moved to the small city of Maidstone. This is where the story of Charles and Ellen really begins, just before their emmigration to America.

The picture above shows Ellen and Charles on what I am told was a yearly trip to stay at the beach. I love the "driving" duster on Ellen and the bathing costume hanging behind them. To compound the  family story, my mother reported that the Tapply clan made this yearly trip to the area around Hampton Beach and Rye Beach, New Hampshire. When mom finally made it to England and to Whitstable she reported that she now understood why they liked Hampton Beach. Whitstable looked like Hampton Beach and it must have "reminded them of home". Perhaps it did. In it's way... The truth is that Charles' brother George worked for the British postal service for many years and when he retired he lived in Whitstable. For George, this little seaside town was a slice of "home". His job for the postal service had been in Brighton- another somewhat larger and more touristy beach spot. I'm sure he found Whitstable restful.

All of this reminds me to keep in mind the first advice for every amateur genealogist. Use the family stories as clues, but don't become wedded to them as fact. I still like the story of the whole Tapply clan decamping from Fitchburg for a vacation at the shore. I like to think at least that part is true....


  1. Cousin, this is a fine blog exhibiting your usual excellent research. I didn't know about the Tapply fondness for Hampton Beach. I spent a glorious summer waitressing there during my college years, with an apartment that looked over the salt marshes, drawing and painting them between shifts. It's comforting to think I was sitting on the same beach as Ellen and Charles, thinking about our ancestors across the pond.

    My mother's side, the Kinseys, came from Kent as well. I wonder if that was one of the reasons my grandparents thought Brainard and Judy should marry...

    Keep up the good work, Chris!

  2. That advice about the family myth is a good one. I let go of that story my dad would tell about Charles putting out miss leading clues or joining the police department in Newton to keep people from finding him because he had gone AWOL from the English Army. There probably is some truth to the AWOL story but after seeing Charles listed year after year in the Newton MA town register, he clearly wasn't hiding from anyone. Good clue but you are right don't get too hung on them as fact. If anything it is a great example of how stories can take on a life of their own when told from person to person and generation to generation.

    Good work and I feel fortunate to have added to your adventure in the small pieces that I have offered.


  3. Jill....that sounds like a wonderful summer job. At some point I may need to "put you to work" for some of this research....after all the repository of family "stuff" partly went to YOUR house before I thought to scan it all.

    Jon, there is probably some kernel of truth in the story. We never have found a ship's manifest with any of them on it and I suspect we need to look more closely at Canada. And maybe he was "hiding in plain sight". After all, unless you committed a crime HERE the U. S. was in no hurry to deport people. But the more I uncover, the more family stories I find are just that.


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