Monday, 12 November 2018

Lest we forget -Centenary of 1911 Armistice 11/11/2018

A field of "poppies" at Canberra to commemorate the Armistice (photo S Reid)
Growing up in the Baby Boomer years I didn't know any family members who went to war -or so I thought.

My paternal grandfather was too young for WWI and my father and uncle were too young for WWII. Mum's brother had been at war but was deceased when I was young. Later I found it was PTSD that caused his death. Such is the sadness that goes with service for country.
James Cross Kerr and his brothers 
signed up from 1914 onwards.

Later when I started my Genealogical journey family members who were soldiers, sailors and air force men came into view. My maternal grandfather and great uncles had been at war in 1915, my paternal great grandfather and his brothers had signed up almost at the start. My husband's family expanded the collection of those to be  remembered.

Later I began writing their stories on my blog. I learnt about the wars, the timing of the battles. I found prisoners of war, spies, some injured, and the saddest of all, those killed in action.  Bravery awards and medals have been uncovered.

So as the allied nations celebrate the end of the war I pause to reflect on how writing up their tales has enhanced my genealogical history. They were called to serve their countries and they did so whole heartedly.

Some of the men returned maimed  and we can only imagine the families who suffered when their men returned mentally scarred.

In the context of family history they were not just men but members of families - fathers, brothers, sons, husbands. Wives were left to hold the fort, work in the family business or perhaps carry on forever in their partner's absence. 

Some of the men returned maimed  and we can only imagine the families who suffered when their men returned mentally scarred. A little known and recognised casualty of war is now recognised - too often we complain "he didn't tell us anything about the war". They suffered in silence.

It has been a privilege to follow their stories, write about their sacrifices and their lives and interests post war. There are more to come- the Ford boys naval service and others.

For those who enlisted in  England I have attempted to "remember" them on the Imperial War Museum's Lives of First World War I and copy their story. This is a digital memorial to those who fought. I encourage you to seek out your relatives, "remember" them and add their stories.
Imperial War Museum - Lives of the first world war


Poppies adorn "Simpson and his donkey" monument (photo S Reid)


Lest we forget


Monday, 29 October 2018

Thomas The Missing Son Is Found! Incorporating a history of the Gadsbys' arrival in Australia in 1912


Thomas James Gadsby was the eldest of the 14 Gadsby children and the eldest son.

Born in 1889 in London, Essex having heard of his father's military exploits he was bursting to sign up for the army. In fact, his father was still in the Reserves when he was born. At the age of 2 he was listed in the 1891 census as living in West Bromwich but had already moved several times as his father sought building work.  By age 12, he was a well-travelled little chap with several moves around Stratford, Manning Park and Canning Town as his parents continued to grow the Gadsby clan and chase building work.



Gadsby Family on the 1891 census in UK


He joined the Busbys as they were called after they returned from South Africa in 1905. His attestation was 5/1/1909 at Stratford Essex. Officially they were known as the 7th Hussars. They were known to have spent a quiet 6 years in England before the Regiment returned to the subcontinent, namely India for another tour.  They were stationed at Bangalore and were left there at the start of World War I, moving to Secunderabad with detachments keeping order in Delhi.Proudly he set off wearing his tall black furry hat and red uniform. 


In 1911 his mother, Selina, gave birth to her 9th and 10th living children, Edith and William, who were sickly twins. In 1912, with the family fearing that there would be a war in Europe and heeding the doctors' advice to get to warmer climates, they prepared to leave for the warmer climate in Australia. Little Edith Laura didn't make it having died in London early in 1912 so Selina and Thomas senior were probably all to pleased to leave London and its miserably cold winter weather behind when they left in early October 1912. In the back of her mind Selina would have been glad that her two teenage sons, Harold 15 and John 13 would probably be spared the need to join up to fight in a war which was looming in Europe.


Thomas Senior’s family on the 1911 census (Thomas Jnr had joined the army)  

Selina travelled to Australia with the girls - Selina, Maude, Julia, Catherine and Grace and one year old William. Lena was 22 and leaving behind a fiance, a much older man known as Ben.  They travelled on the “Zealandia” arriving as unassisted passengers on 15/11/1912.  

Thomas and his older sons Harold and John travelled to Australia by some other means, possibly as crew on board a merchant ship. There is probably some truth in the rumour doing the rounds of Harold's family that “he jumped ship” in Sydney.

On board the ship, Selina and the girls met up with the Thurlows who were also travelling to make a home in Australia.  A relationship grew between a young Alex Thurlow and the young Selina. (Lena). Reputedly, her furious mother wrote to Ben back in England of the situation and advised him to make haste to Australia.

Meanwhile a Gadsby family reunion had taken place in Sydney and within 5 months of their arrival in Sydney, or perhaps because of the cold nights in Katoomba, Selina Snr was pregnant with her final child, Edith Fanny who was born early 1914

The girls began to settle into school in Katoomba and life in Australia. With the declaration of war in Europe, Harold and John quickly joined the troops to fight the War. Ben had arrived by this time and in a great shock to the family their mother began a relationship with him, leaving her husband and Lena to bring up her children and the new baby. At the end of the War, John returned home a little worse for wear having been gassed and Harold joined his father as a bricklayer. They began to anticipate the arrival of their brother Thomas who would be returning from a long spell in the military in India and Mesopotamia.


Having been in the Asiatic theatre of war since 13/9/1915 it was in 1917 that the frustrated 7th Hussar regiment sailed to the River Tigris near Basra to fight against the Turks. They moved to Baghdad from where the first attack was launched in March 1918 against the enemy in Khan Baghdadi. The 7th had the role of cutting off the enemy retreat, which they managed very efficiently, first destroying the baggage column, then routing the enemy division in fifteen minutes. Six months of stagnation around Baghdad took place as the Turks had withdrawn. Another offensive was mounted by the British where they again encircled the enemy at Sharquat. The 7th executed a brilliant piece of fire and withdrew. On the 30th October, as they were preparing to attack again, news came through that Turkey had surrendered but the 7th were to remain as an occupying force not arriving home until May 1919.


The London Gazette 15/8/17 reports that his services were brought to the notice of Lieut Gen Sir Stanley Maude KCB, Commander in Chief of the Mespotamian Expeditionary Force as deserving of special mention.  7th Hussars issued the British War Medal & Victory Medal and Acting Sergeant Thomas Gadsby of the 7th (Queens Own) Hussars Corps was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal which was gazetted on 15/1/1920.


In a Supplement to the London Gazette on 3/2/20. ....The his name was are brought to the attention of the Undersecretary of State for War for valuable services rendered with the Bushire Force in Persia 1/4/18-31/3/19 and again in the London Gazette 31/1/20  Supplement

"His Majesty has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the Meritorious Award to the undermentioned in recognition of valuable services rendered with the British Forces in India S Persia Bushire Force Hussars H3726 Pte A/ Sgt Gadsby TJ 7th (Canningtown)"

Thomas was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as arriving in Sydney on 9th August 1919 on the Steamer Janus from Calcutta.







Thomas Jnr’s war medals from his time in 7th Hussars



He arrived in Australia after a long absence from his family to be greeted by his sisters who had become women complete with war time boyfriends and his brothers who had also had their own war time experiences. His sister Lena was married to Alexander Thurlow who she met on board the ship. Edie, his little Australian sister was 5 years old when he met her for the first time . A few adjustments had to be made. He was 22 when his family had come to Australia and now he was 30. Having led a life for 10 years or so in the Army in India, he was used to having servants to attend to his needs. He saw no problem with getting the same treatment at home and felt that his little brother William and little Edie could fill in as servants when he left his shoes out for them to shine. This created much resentment amongst the littlies.
Lena’s wedding 1918 –Maude Rose Gadsby, William Thurlow, Alexander Thurlow, Selina Charlotte (Lena) Gadsby, Selina Gadsby, John Robert Gadsby, Julia Nellie Gadsby
The family unit was much different when Thomas arrived back from the war

Meanwhile Thomas, a deeply religious man, was not happy with what he saw when he returned home. His mother had taken up with his sister’s ex fiance, Ben, and his sister Lena was left to bring up the girls and the younger children while his father earned a living. He told Julia, before her wedding in 1921 that he wouldn’t see any of his family again. True to his word, he didn’t and amazingly given his beliefs married a young divorcee, Violet Emma Harrison in Ashfield, and moved with her to New Zealand. It appears he met this young divorcee Violet Emma  nee Harrison (previously Stewart) who was born in England , moved to NZ and then came to  Australia with her mother and brother after the death of her father. 
Thomas and Violet’s wedding certificate

Until 2011, nearly 100 years after his family came to Australia no one knew what happened to Thomas. That passing comment to his sister Julia remained somewhat of a family secret. Julia passed it on to her daughter, Marlene, who recorded it in her family history notes. Twenty years had passed when Julia’s granddaughter-me- came across the message and began a search. Remarkably with very little to go on a marriage was found and certificates from both NSW Birth Deaths and Marriages and New Zealand Registry were obtained. During my investigations there were rumours he had made contact and was living in Australia but this cannot be substantiated. 
Thomas Jnr’s death certificate gave comfort to the older members of the family

Messages went out to the family at large. The mystery of the missing son, Thomas, has been solved. He is/was alive and well. Unbeknown to the family Thomas had met and married Violet Emma Harrison who was born in England and came to Australia via New Zealand. She was living at Ashfield. They had married in Sydney in December 1921 and moved to NZ where he lived and worked as a Tramways conductor until his death in 1953. They had been childless. Violet lived on to 1986.  Why hadn’t he written or kept in contact?

You can’t help but think that Thomas’ life and relationship with his family would ever be the same again when he arrived in Australia in 1919. A new country and previously unknown siblings who resented cleaning his shoes would have been difficult enough. His other brothers and sister were almost strangers after his long absence away from the family. The war had changed everyone. Perhaps his family would not have approved of his new love- a divorcee in the 1920s. Certainly he was at odds with his opinion of his mother’s carry on with his sister’s ex-fiance and her new life and lover.  Perhaps his mail never quite caught up with a constantly moving family. History can be unravelled but not undone. There is a kind of comfort in knowing that he lived a long life in Grey Lynn NZ and although childless he had created a new life with Violet probably living through the memories of all the places he had experienced.  Not bad for a kid born in London in 1889.
The only known photo of Thomas until........

Thomas and Violet .... thanks for sharing Patricia Ahmu nee Harrison
A couple of years ago Patricia Ahmu approached me after seeing his details on Ancestry. She was the great niece of Violet. She had met her Great Aunty Violet  when she was on holiday in NZ in 1970 and again when she lived in Auckland in 1972.  She often dined with her at her new place at Birkdale on the north shore of Auckland.   Violet told her that she and Tom had no children but she had twin boys and they were born dead.  Patriciat said that she was a bright and kind lady who would have been a wonderful mother. 

I was excited to receive this news and even more excited when she shared photos of Thomas and Violet.

More Stories in this series:



Weaving The Family Tree -Gadsby Life In Attleborough, Nuneaton,Coventry,London and Sydney


When I first visited the picturesque County of Warwickshire in 2006 I was  visiting the birthplace of Shakespeare. With a day to spare we had to choose between spending the day driving around the hills and dales to Warwickshire Castle or visiting the Jaguar factory at Coventry. That was in the days before I knew about our family history connection and little did I know I was only 28 miles south from Nuneaton, the place where generations had lived for hundreds of years. 

Basically the Gadsby family are descended from people who lived in and around Northern Warwickshire in the West Midlands of the UK for at least 12 generations before moving 8 miles away to Coventry and then further to London and Australia. But that was in the days before I was "doing the family history" My main emphasis that day in England and was to avoid a visit to the Jaguar factory. You can guess who wanted to do that. I’m sorely regretting that decision now.


Our focus begins on the Nuneaton area. Draw a small circle around the parish area of Nuneaton to highlight places like Exhall, Foleshill, Stockingford, Chivers Coton and Attleborough. Our ancestors in the Gadsby and the maternal sides lived in and around these villages from the 1550s to 1851 -- 300 years in this little part of Warwickshire. The Gadsby family in particular had local family connections in the Nuneaton district  from the 18th to the 20th century.

One local historian, Peter Lee has described the Gadsby clan as “local gentry amongst the labouring people worthy of a bit extra (research) attention.” There is even a Gadsby Street in Nuneaton named in honour of a famous member of the family -- the preacher William Gadsby. 

Although there was a French and German Belgium influence in the area we seem to have been devoid of continental influences in our names. We can track our family through the Gadsbys for seven generations to approximately 1680. Typical Christian names are John, William, Thomas, Henry and George for the boys and Catherine for the girls. Through the maternal lines of Popes, Lesters and Proctors we can trace from the current generation 15 generations back to 1550, most of which have been lived  in the  northern Warwickshire area.



Our Tudor relatives living in the Nuneaton surrounds probably worked in industries such as leather tanning, brick making and iron working. In the 18th century the town of Nuneaton become famous for silk ribbon weaving. Silk ribbons would adorn the ladies clothing and hats of the day and members of our family worked in that industry since at least the 1780s. By the end of the 1700s Nuneaton had a population of 2000 and was a good sized market town in its time.





In 1770 John Gadsby at aged 50 married for the second time to a young 20 year old named Martha Lingard. He had already had 7 children by Elizabeth Cope who he had married in 1756. He then  proceeded to father 7 more with Martha. His father – also a John had been a shag (carpet) weaver in Coventry but little is known about him and how his son John came to live in Abbey Street, Nuneaton. Note that Attleborough is a hamlet of Nuneaton. However we do know he was a poor roadman who ended up living until 96 years old. His job would have entailed building and maintaining about a mile stretch of road between Attleborough and Coventry. Two of his children by Martha were John and the famous preacher, William. We are descended from John(3) . 

While baptism, marriage and burial records from the Nuneaton area give us details of births, deaths and marriages amongst our relatives it is the accounts of the Gadsbys’ life recorded in published writings  by John Gadsby, son of William Gadsby, the famous Preacher, which give us the first inkling of what it was like to grow up in Nuneaton. This work was also used as a source for the Biography on William Gadsby by B.A.Ramsbottom in 2003.

A sketch of Gadsby’s house in Attleborough, Nuneaton

John was described as a very quiet man as opposed to his wife Martha who was just the opposite. His first child from the second marriage was our John . He and his younger brother William had to nurse the younger children being the eldest of the 7 children from this second marriage. It is said “ the Gadsby children were left to run about the village, barefoot and ragged  and almost wild until they were old enough to work.” (B.A.Ramsbottom 2003). They were also described in Ramsbottom’s biography as   “full of mischief and up to all manner of pranks.”  It is likely that John and William learnt reading but not writing or English at the Nuneaton church school.

 He is also responsible for his brother, William seeking religion. Apparently while out one night John persuaded his brother to go into the Three Crowns at Attleborough and have a taste of the “Queens Cordial”. Three halfpence worth each was enough to do the trick. The Landlady sent them on their way saying “I’ll have no drunken fellows here.” William swore off alcohol from then on and sought the Lord’s forgiveness!

 John went on to be married three times to Elizabeth Smith, Mary Brown and Elizabeth Harris. Mary Brown had only one daughter Damaris, while John and Elizabeth Harris had 5 children one of whom is our John (4) –Thomas Gadsby’s father.
Nuneaton township

It  is the 1841 Census that gives us an inkling of exactly where our John (4) lived, how they earned their living  and perhaps even the hardships faced in his life. At the time of the census this John born 1826 was living with his half sister Damaris Asbury with her family in Hall Row  Attleborough, Nuneaton. At age 15 he is working as ribbon weaver in the Damaris’ family home. His thrice married father had died eight years earlier in 1833 and presumably his mother Elizabeth nee Harris was also dead. John and Damaris were most probably the only living children from the three marriages. He lived just round the corner from where his future in-laws the Pope's lived in Freers Row. Charlotte Pope was also from a ribbon weaving family.
Jno Gadsby and Damaris Asbury on the 1841 Nuneaton census

Nuneaton streets at that time were filled with the clackitty clack of looms as most of the silk ribbon weaving was done in the home.  Single hand looms were pushed up against the long windows for light. Cottages in the streets and courts today show the remnants of the long windows which lit the single hand looms. Later the upper stories were filled with engine looms. A man called Green or known as “Crack Green” had a shop cum factory in Abbey Street filled with plain engine looms. This man was most probably a brother-in-law of Charlotte Pope whose sister, Catherine had married into the Green family. At the time a weaver got 24 shillings per length and could earn in peak times two pounds per week.

By 1847 John had married 15 year old Charlotte Pope and they continued to live in Nuneaton until after the birth of their first son William Gadsby in 1849. The growth of Nuneaton was boosted by the railway which arrived in 1847. This would have enabled easy travel between Nuneaton and Coventry. 
1851 census  married to Charlotte Pope and with baby William in Nuneaton

Sometime after 1851 census was taken John, Charlotte and William moved from 50 Buchanan’s Row in Nuneaton to Coventry where five more children were born. These were Catherine (b1851), John (b1854), Henry (b1859), Thomas (b1861) and George (b1865). 
1861 census with John and Charlotte living in Coventry with William, Catherine , John and Henry
Initially John and Charlotte continued earning a living as ribbon weavers.  John was still noted as a ribbon weaver on John and Catherine’s birth certificates. Coventry had nearly 10,000 workers employed in the silk ribbon trade rising to a peak of 25,000 in about 1857. However by the 1860s, the ribbon weaving trade had collapsed as protective duties were removed and the industry went into deep decline as foreign silk manufacturers flooded the market. For example in 1859 in Coventry and Nuneaton there were 80 manufacturers in the ribbon weaving district. This dwindled  to 12 and wages had dropped dramatically.

John had become a policeman by 1858 as Henry’s birth certificate has him listed as such.  However, they must have continued to work from home as the 1861 census has John, Charlotte and the children living in 17 Swanswell St, Holy Trinity District of St Peters, Coventry and listed as being employed as ribbon weavers. Perhaps John had picked up different work as it became available as he is listed as policeman by May 1861 and again in 1865 on Thomas’ and George’s birth certificates. By 1860 police constables and sergeants in Coventry were paid up to £6 per year and the higher ranks £8 per year. In 1868 Officers were to be issued with revolvers and cutlasses during ‘the present disturbed state of the County’ and pay had grown to £50 per annum. A year later the traditional police helmets were introduced. There was roughly 1 policeman for every 1,128 people.  John is listed as a gun maker in 1870 on Catherine’s marriage certificate. He is called a Gun pickler on his own death certificate in 1875.


Records show the children Catherine, John, Henry and Thomas were baptised on the same day at the ruined St Michaels of Coventry in 1863 where  John is working as a Police Constable. 



John and Charlotte had 4 of their children christened on the same day in Coventry

The family survived the smallpox epidemic of 1871 which killed 166 people in Coventry.
At the time there were a lot of complaints about the living conditions in Coventry. In the 1870s the river was described as “a large open and extremely offensive sewer”. The streets of Coventry were described as being narrow, ill paved and ill cleansed with deplorable housing conditions. The burial grounds were criticised as being inadequate and too near the centre of the city.  There was a typhoid epidemic in 1875. Various improvements were instigated in later years but too late for our John. Unfortunately he died  at age 49 at the end of 1875 after suffering from typhoid and his dear wife Charlotte died only a few weeks later in early 1876 presumably of typhoid also. She was only49.
John Gadsby (4) died of typhoid fever in 1875


Both parents dead within weeks.  Where did this leave the children of John and Charlotte?  What became of them? How did they manage?

William’s fate is still unclear. Being the oldest child, he was 26 years old in 1875 and could presumably fend for himself. William ‘s trail appears to have stopped and efforts are still being made to track him down.  Catherine, the only daughter and second child had married John Rowbottom in 1870 and was living in Aston at the time of her parents’ deaths. Three of her children were born in Birmingham, but by the time of the 1881 census had moved to London with her growing family. Catherine bore 7 children but had unfortunately died by 1904 aged 53 in West Ham, London when the youngest was only 11. 


Catherine Gadsby married John Robotham in 1870

John(5), Thomas’ second oldest brother, was informant at his father John’s death and was living in Aston. A few weeks after his mother’s death, he married Mary Ann Phillpot and continued to live in the Aston, Birmingham area with his four children. The 1911 Census has him as a 56 year old living at 217 Holyhead Rd  Handsworth Birmingham. He was a weighing machine fitter at a Weighing Machine and Scale works. Three of his children had already died and only two daughters were still living. John lived to a good age of 71 dying in 1925.


John Gadsby 1911 census

John gave his brother Thomas a hymn book of the William Gadsby hymns as a parting gift before his travels to Australia.  William, their great uncle had become a famous preacher in Manchester and is still remembered today for his hymns. The Hymn Book was much treasured by Thomas and  still exists today having been passed on to his eldest granddaughter, Betty, who spent a lot of time with Grandad Thomas as a child.


Cousin Betty Shortell with the Gadsby hymn book brought over from England by Thomas in 1912

Henry was only 16 when his parents passed away. After making his way to Scotland he travelled to Brisbane, Australia on the Rodell Bay from Greenock. Thus when he arrived on 27/8/1878 he was 19 years old. After spending a year in Brisbane, he travelled to Sydney pursuing his trade as a bricklayer. Not long after, he married Sarah Fanny Chandler in 1881. Sadly he and Sarah’s only daughter, Charlotte, died in infancy.  After a long absence from England, electoral records show that he was reunited with his brother Thomas and the family again after they immigrated to Sydney and located to Commodore St Newtown. This was a few doors down from where he and Sarah were living.  Both worked as bricklayers in the local area.


Henry’s death certificate gave a lot of clues about Henry’s life
Young George was just 10 years old when he was orphaned. In 1881 he was still living in Birmingham, Aston as a lodger with Catherine’s brother in law, Thomas Rowbotham. He was working as a bricklayer in Rowbotham’s business. After marrying Charlotte Coggins in 1892 he continued to work as a bricklayer and went on to have 6 children, dying in Handsworth, Birmingham in 1929.

George Gadsby and family 1911 census

And what of Thomas – our patriarch?  It could the making or breaking of a child to be 14 year old orphan.  In 1871, he had been a scholar living at Gem Street Industrial School. Perhaps he had started work as bricklayer by the time of his parent’s death in 1876. Clearly his sister and brother were looking out for him as they are recorded as his next of kin in his army records as was the fact that he was a bricklayer. By the time of the 1881 census, Thomas Gadsby aged 20 was a Private in Army Services Corp Warwickshire St Marys Parish. At 18 years and 5 months he had joined the Army at Birmingham on 18/10/1879 signing for 6 years. He served in the 13th  Brigade and the 1st Warwick  militia where his grandfather had also served. His army records described him as  5 feet 6 inches with a fair complexion, light brown  hair and grey eyes.  After completing his time he signed on again for a further 6 years in the Army Reserve as Lt Corporal from 30/10/85 to 22/10/1891.

Thomas’ Militia Records
Thomas married Selina Smith, a waitress, on October 16 1887at Bethnal Green. Despite the many bouts of syphilis and gonorrhea he was treated for in the army, he managed to father 14 children. As a young dad he moved the family around London and Essex in search of building work. Of the 14 births (one of which was in Sydney), 3 infant deaths resulted.  A recent television series commented on the likelihood of previously contracted STDs to cause birth defects early in parenthood. This may explain the two infant deaths early in their marriage. Possibly these occurred in the early days or between the births of Lena and Harold.


Thomas and Selina’s Wedding Certificate

The 1911 census shows the family of 11 living in 12 Hallsville Rd Canning Town, London which was described as a five room dwelling. Thomas, aged 50 was a Bricklayer and Harold was an errand boy. Forty two year old Selina had given birth to the twins, William and Edith Laura 2 months previously. Thomas Jnr was in the Army. Selina (Lena) was 20 and obviously helping out at home. The other children John 12, Maude 10, Julia 8, Catherine 5 and Grace 3 were either toddlers or attending school. Later in 1911 Thomas and Selina made a decision to move to Australia with their family to escape the London weather. The strong and decisive Selina had had a hard time and wanted to protect her family from the looming threat of war in Europe and the harsh weather in England.

Eventually at 51 Thomas moved his family to Sydney in 1912 in search of more hospitable weather. He and sons, Harold and John most probably travelled by merchant ship while Selina and the younger children, Selina, Maude, Julia, Catherine, Grace and William sailed on board the “Zealandia”. The oldest son Thomas joined the family in Sydney after his service in India and Mesopotamia in WW1. Edie was born in 1914 in Sydney.


The final census(1911) for the family before leaving for Australia

In Sydney Thomas continued working as a builder in and around Sydney until his death in his 73rd year in 1933. He would have been a proud father to see his three oldest boys fighting for both Britain and Australia in WW1 especially after his earlier involvement in the army. I think he would be even prouder of his hard working brood and the way they have lived their lives in a new and warmer country. They have continued to be as the Nuneaton historian said “local gentry amongst  the labouring people” They  and their children were decent upstanding people. Interestingly only 5 of his children had children of their own.  At last count there are 195 people listed in the Descendants of Thomas and Selina.

We didn’t have a lot to go on when we started this search. All his grandchildren who I talked to seemed to know that my great grandfather Thomas was born in Coventry and that he and Selina had married in Bethnal Green but that was about it. Working backwards up a tree relies on good luck and information becoming available.  For example a helpful volunteer at the Family history centre detected John and his half sister Damaris Asbury in the 1841 census.  Almost by fluke she guessed that Damaris Asbury could have been born a Gadsby. From there several people who had published their trees on various genealogy sites had selected the wrong John to be our relation.

The more we looked the more we felt the family had been centred on Nuneaton and not the nearby county of Lincoln. It hurt when we had to scratch off seven generations because of the mistaken Lincolnshire connection.

The release of the Warwickshire Parish records in Novemebr 2011 has meant we can track the relatives back through to the Lesters and the Proctors in 1550 in the town of Exhall. In addition, sheer bloody mindedness on my part made me determined to make William  “the preacher”  and his famous Gadsby Street  in Nuneaton fit into our family tree. Information from his son John’s  memoirs  and Ramsbottom’s book were like pieces of the puzzle waiting to fall into place. Their accounts recounting the family of John and Martha added some flavour to life in Nuneaton but helped the cause by giving enough clues to enable our John and what we knew of his parents to slip into his story.


Gadsby Street Nuneaton named after a famous Gadsby relative

As a family historian, brick walls and lack of detailed information always cause doubt about whether one has woven the correct family together. If only we could get hints from those who had gone before us. Sometimes hints come in the oddest of ways. Once when I attended a Cancer Council afternoon tea. The host had asked a clairvoyant /card reader to do “readings” as part of the fundraiser. I was a reluctant participant in the group. Before she started the session the clairvoyant asked for a person relating to a “Charl” sounding  name surrounded by piles of ribbons. As the hairs rose on the back of my neck she added that there was murder and violence close by – could she be seeing CharlotteGadsby (nee Pope), the ribbon weaver and John Gadsby, the policeman?

At times I’ve wondered if we have found the right people – the right John and the right Charlotte, the right Popes and the right Gadsbys. I’ll take the card reader’s comments as a great big hint.  We’ve nailed it. Charlotte is looking in on us and I think she approves!


Post script: The same card reader “saw “  Selina Gadsby nee Smith- Thomas’ wife. She reported that Selina thought  I was giving her a hard time.  She reportedly said that “I should stop giving her a hard time”. “She had a hard life and she left England because of the weather”.  You’ll have to read the blog "Thomas the Missing Son Is Found” to see why she is upset with me. 

More stories in this series

Thomas The Missing Son Is Found! Incorporating a history of the Gadsbys' arrival in Australia in 1912