Showing posts with label London. Show all posts
Showing posts with label London. Show all posts

Monday, March 5, 2018

Hidden Talents

The Princess's Theater- London
Every once in a while, I run across a story that piques my curiosity. This is one of those stories. It concerns a more distant branch of the Tapply family. Mary Ann Charlotte Tapply is only a 2nd cousin 4 times removed. Not a close family member. When I started following the clues for her family, I discovered a really interesting story and a bizarre twist.

Mary Ann married a man named James Baker Husk Junior. The census referred to him as a vocalist. A little more digging led me to this small bio on the site of the D'Oyly Carte Opera company.
"James Baker Husk was a member of the jury when Trial by Jury received its first performance at the Royalty Theatre March 25, 1875, under the management of Richard D'Oyly Carte. The Company was on tour from June to October 1875, then returned to the Royalty, but under the management of Charles Morton, rather than Carte. While on tour, Husk was promoted to Foreman of the Jury, a role he played only until November, when he was succeeded by W. S. Penley.
Husk had a musical career dating back to the 1840s. It ranged from the London Sacred Harmonic Society to the Cyder Cellar music hall. He was the father of D'Oyly Carte singer Rosa Husk."
Another site described him as a vocalist and music teacher and music hall chairman of the Cider Cellar and Dr. Johnson's Tavern. Apparently this last place was a Victorian age landmark. It seems that his talents were "opera with a touch of music hall". 
Mary Ann and James had nine children and lived in the area of London near St. Pancras called "Kentish town". This isn't far from where my great-great grandmother lived. Of the nine,  three followed their father into the music profession. William, James Charles and Rosa were all described in various censuses as vocalists. William died relatively young, but Rosa had some success in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.
"Rosa Alexandra Husk toured with D'Oyly Carte organization in the early 1880s. She appeared as Kate in The Pirates of Penzance (April-December 1881) with Mr. D'Oyly Carte's "C" Company, and later had two tours as the Lady Angela in Patience with Mr. D'Oyly Carte's No. 1 "Patience" Company (March-April 1883 and March-July 1884). During the 1881 Pirates tour she appeared as Kate Husk, but for the subsequent Patience tours she was billed by her real name of Rosa or as Rose." 
She got a number of good reviews, but eventually retired, married and ended up in Los Angeles.
The eldest brother, James Charles, is where the strange twist come in. James was also a professional singer and a member of the Carl Rosa Opera Company. They toured England bringing opera to various smaller cities all over the country. The Princess's Theater, shown above, is one of the places the Carl Rosa Opera Company mounted productions. He sang for many years, but his eyesight began to fail and he turned to his other talent to make his living. In this life, he was known as Cecil Husk.
Raymond Buckland describes Husk this way in The Spirit Book:
"From early childhood, in England, Cecil Husk was aware of his potential mediumship, frequently experiencing clairvoyance and psychokensis. His father was a singer, but also a Spritualist which made it easier for Cecil to understand and accept his gifts... Husk had five spirit guides, the main one being John King. While traveling on tour, Husk would give seances. He sat two or three times a week. At his sittings, musical "fairy bells" would be heard and would be seen flying around the room like orbs."
Unfortunately, not everyone was impressed with Cecil's "skills".  Wikipedia tells this tale;
"In 1891 at a public séance with twenty sitters Husk was exposed as a fraud. He was caught leaning over a table pretending to be a spirit by covering his face with phosphor material. It was noted by investigators that the materializations of Husk had fine singing voices and sounded similar to himself.[2] Husk also claimed to have the psychic ability to push his entire arm through an iron ring with a size that did not allow its passage over the hand, however, it was discovered that he performed the trick by using a local anesthetic on his hand."
Although he was "exposed" a number of times, he continued to make a living with his mediumship. Eventually, ill and destitute, a fund was set up to provide for his care. He died around 1920.
The story doesn't end there. Cecil's brother Percy was a journalist, but  his daughter also became a singer who performed under the name Ray Wallace. An online source describes her as a serio-comic ballad vocalist. "She commenced her imitations of music-hall favorites in 1899 and has appeared in every hall of note in the United Kingdom."
Judge for yourself.
Sometimes the true stories you find in your family history are much better than anything you could possibly invent!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Setting the Scene- Ellen Freed Benn

    This is Ellen Freed Benn, the matriarch of our particularly large branch of the Tapply family tree. There is no date on the picture, but it's bound to be early. She had12 children in all, 11 living. Her ancestry is a knot still to be totally unraveled. I've been working on that for a while now.

     Sometimes it's worth sending off for vital records, even if they cost a bit. This was once of those times. The family Bible said that Ellen Benn was born in Sutton Valence, but her records didn't turn up there. Oh, I found a christening entry, but no birth record. When London turned up on the hints in Ancestry, I had to know more.
    From this record we have an exact birth date, a place, her father's occupation and some information about her mother. By March, when this certificate and the christening entry were filed, her mother  Mary Ann Frid (Freed) was recorded as "deceased".  Perhaps this was in childbirth, birth complications, or illness. Life was tough back then in the poor neighborhoods of London. A little research into Somers Town has told me that.
     Crawley Mews doesn't exist anymore. At some point when roads were straightened and reorganized, the road and the mews disappeared.
    This is the corner of Eversholt Road where Crawley used to be. The mews would have been behind the houses on the left. If you look at the cross street of Lidlington, behind these houses, you can see a wide garden space that must have been the mews at one time.
    This all looks very leafy now, but the descriptions online of Somers Town at the time are of real poverty. Charles Dickens' childhood home is only a block away.
This is from a book about the mews of London. Imagine now that John Benn kept his "rig" and his horse in the stable and mews below. He and his wife and child lived above. 
    The neighborhood of SomersTown is near Old St. Pancras Hospital, St. Pancras Station and King's Cross Station (of Harry Potter fame). Today it's a very mixed bag of working people and immigrants. Even then, the police blotter that  cousin Holly found describes some blocks as very affluent and some as quite poor. To give you some context, I found an antique map where you can just read "Crawley" inside the red circle. I suspect the three horizontal buildings there are the mews. The modern map below shows how changed it all is.
    For Americans unfamiliar with London, I'm including a wider map too.
     After her mother's death, Ellen went to live with her Freed relatives in Kent. First she lived with her aunt, then an uncle. I believe this aunt is the "mother" who presented her with the family Bible. My research leads me to think that her father may not have survived long after her mother.  I don't find anything that's certain, but he seems to disappear. The police notes Holly found come from the London School of Economics and they chronicle an officer walking his "beat" in 1898. He makes note of a "cab master who is a considerable proprietor" living on Crawley Mews. So Crawley Mews continued to be home to London cabbies for a time.
     The police blotter also records that "the gardens of Oakley Square remain private". I was trolling around the internet trying to find some very early pictures of Somers Town. I found a few pictures of Old St. Pancras church and the railway stations, but the picture that made me smile was this one.
This picture from that very time is of the hippo in Regents Park Zoo. Somers Town is right on the edge of Regents Park. With the local green space closed to them, I like to think that maybe John and Mary Ann Benn took a stroll through Regents Park and perhaps enjoyed a look at the animals in the zoo. It's a nice thought, since their happiness was so brief.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love and Marriage

St. Vedast Church- London
     On this day of romance, a post about how marriage records have come to my rescue in my research or have helped me understand more about my family. This is St. Vedast Church in London. The image on the left is a rendering of the church in the early 19th century, a little before the marriage of my great, great grandparents. The right picture is a more modern one. This church made it through a major fire and the Blitz. Part were damaged, but it stands to this day.
James Henry Tapply and Elizabeth Payne
     So here is the entry in the marriage register. What could I learn from this? The ages and status of the  young couple tell us they were young and this is their first marriage. His occupation, bricklayer, and his residence, Cheapside, tell us he was living in London at the time and learning a trade. Most importantly we have the names of both fathers and their occupations. John Tapply, the shoemaker, is father of the groom. Why is this important? There were two John Tapplys at the time living in Wittersham. They were born in almost the same year and both married women named Sarah. This helps me untangle that knot. Lastly we have the witnesses. I can look back at census and other records to find out who these people are to the young couple.
Michael Cooke and Mary Feehily(Feely)
       Next was the discovery that excited me recently. Irish records were added that made it possible to see the actual marriage register for my great-grandparents on my father's side.  On the left we have the exact date, 12 May, and location, Cloonigan. Then we have the original Irish spellings of the names of the young couple. This will help in further searches: Michael Cooke with an e and Mary Feehily or Feely. Last we have the Patron or witnesses: Michael Feehily and Mary Ann Cooke. Obviously family members attended the wedding. A little further research may tell me who these folks were.
Andrew Fitzgerald and Catharine Fitzgerald
     Next we see a record I had never seen before. This is a little different than the register entry I also found for this couple. It looks like it could be a receipt for an application for a marriage license. This really excited me because it gives ages for the couple. You may remember that Andrew's birthdate is still a question mark in my research. If he was 50 on June 4, 1864, his birthdate would be around 1814 and he lived to be 84 years old. Not impossible, but I still wonder about this since so many other records give different ages.  Catharine's birth would be in 1834. The most exciting part of this record are the names of both great, great grandparents. This takes me "across the pond" and into Ireland! Andrew Fitzgerald and Margaret Callahan are on his side. Robert Fitzgerald and Ellen Desmond on hers. Of course this also takes me into Cork and the surrounding counties where Fitzgeralds were thick on the ground and records are patchy at best. My work is cut out for me.

Eliazer Rogers and Martha Young
      The last record is remarkably simple for its age and survival. This is my sixth great grandfather Eliazer Rogers who married Martha Young in Harwich, Massachusetts in 1712. Spellings varied in these old registers, so we see an alternative spelling for his name. Simply confirming this far away and pre-Revolutionary event is rewarding. This record was found in the unindexed portion of Family Search. Yes, you have to troll page-by-page, but the rewards are pure gold.
     Maybe a closer look at some marriage records will clear up some mysteries in your family tree.
Happy Valentines Day!